Smoke fired pottery

I became interested in smoke fired pots around 2000 and decided to concentrate on producing individual pots using this method of decoration, and to sell through galleries.

The Process

Coiling Burnishing Each pot begins as a shallow press moulded, thrown or coiled base which is centred onto a wooden bat with a bead of clay. This is then placed onto a home-made banding wheel on which the pot is built using extruded coils. When leather hard the pot is scraped smooth and burnished using a variety of knife handles and spoons.

The bisque firing is at 900°C, any pots that are to have lustre decoration are glazed with a lead sesquicilicate based glaze. Firing I use this as it matures at 960°C and leaves the unglazed areas porous enough to accept carbon during the smoking process. As my pots are either decorative or non-functional, the problems associated with lead glazes and certain foodstuffs do not arise. Metallic lustres are painted onto the glazed areas and fired to 750°C.

Smoking takes place inside a dustbin that has 10mm holes in its sides at regular spacing. Smoking The pots are placed inside and covered with sawdust. A fire is lit on the sawdust and allowed to turn to charcoal before the flames are extinguished when the lid is put on. A metal flue with a damper has been riveted to the lid and gives a degree of control as it burns. The holes in the side of the bin also serve this purpose, some being plugged with clay for more carbonisation or left open if a flash of oxidation on an area of pot is desired. The smoking takes about twelve hours, when cool the pots are cleaned and polished with marbie wax.

Airbrushed Smoking pots creates quite a bit of smoke that can be a nuisance to neighbours by blowing into open windows and over washing. To overcome this and to be more environmentally responsible I undertook various experiments using black slip and underglaze black colour. These were airbrushed onto the pots before the burnishing process and worked very well. I produced quite a few pots this way before I stopped making smoked pottery.