Ceramic Design Studio

Pit Fired Ceramics
"Flame Painted Ceramics"
Low Temperature Salt and Copper Firing
Pitfired Pair Pitfired 01 Pitfire 02 Pitfired 03 Pitfired 04 Pitfired 05
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**Go to the News and Events page see a slide show of a recent group pit-firing at San Francisco's Ocean Beach.**

Pit Fired Ceramics - Instructions for Potters. Click here for techniques.

General Description of Process
Contemporary pit firing techniques often yield remarkable surface effects. Vibrant and exciting colorful designs are imprinted on unglazed clay forms by dancing flames carrying fumes from selected combustibles and chemicals.

Pit firing is one of the most primitive methods for firing ceramic ware. The very first pots were probably clay lined baskets that accidentally fell into a camp fire. Even today, ancient methods handed down through the generations are still used in many third world counties to produce functional, decorative and ceremonial ware. Calling on my Mexican and Native American cultural traditions, I have further evolved methods of producing flame painted pots that are very much ‘one with nature’.

Vessels are made of white or near white clay. Then the pieces are either:
1. Burnished (hand polished with a tumbled stone),
2. Covered with terra sigillata (a very fine clay coating causing a sheen), or
3. Left with a textured surface.

After being thoroughly air dried, the pots are bisque fired in an electric or gas kiln to “harden” the clay. The pit is prepared by digging a large hole in the ground and then filling it in a predetermined manner. The ceramic pieces are surrounded by various combustibles (i.e., saw dust, paper, twigs and kindling, hard wood pieces, leaves from plants grown in saline soil, seaweed, and cow pies) and specific chemicals (i.e., copper carbonate and sodium chloride) to effect certain colors on the clay surface during the firing. The pit is fired for four to six hours, reaching temperatures of approximately 1850°F (orange–red glowing embers) and allowed to cool naturally. Fateful chance weaves its magic through the pit’s flames producing ware as you see today.

1. Pit fired pottery is used for decorative purposes only. Pit fired pottery is not intended to by used for food or water. It is not food-safe. It is not oven nor microwave proof.
2. Keep your pit fired pottery out of direct sunlight.
3. Keep your pit fired pottery dry. Do not submerge in water.
4. To clean your piece, wipe with a dry cloth. Once a year apply a thin layer of floor paste wax and polish with a dry cloth.