Barrel Firing

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Pit Firing is an ancient and primitive method of low firing unglazed ceramics.  I use the same technique but with a metal bin which usually achieves a higher temperature than pit firing and so produces a stronger surface colouring,  I first wrap copper wire around the pieces before laying them on a bed of sawdust in the metal bin surrounded by chopped straw, wood shavings, salt and various oxides.  Finally layers of shredded paper, kindling and larger pieces of wood are carefully placed on top and set alight.  The fire will burn for about 30/45 minutes and during the firing the sawdust, straw and shavings burn and the salt and oxides fume creating smoke patterns and flashes of colour.  The copper wire leaves black lines on the surface.  The fire is left to burn down and partially covered.  The ash on top of the pieces is not disturbed to allow for further colour development.  Where they were partially buried in the sawdust they turn black and flashes of yellow, orange and red appear on the surface.  The following morning when the pieces have been cooled down, they are cleaned and then sealed with wax or lacquer.  Every firing is different and each piece is unique.