Pit Firing in the woods at Winchcombe Pottery, PART 1

One beautiful day in the Autumn I helped Mike with a spot of tree surgery. We had to lasso a large broken ash limb which was precariously hanging over the River Isbourn. It was reminiscent of the final scene of the Great Escape. The limb was quite high up, but after a few attempts I managed to throw a rope with a hook over it.

We attached the other end to Mike's fork lift and he reversed. It came crashing down, far easier than I expected actually. Mike donned his neoprene waders and got in the river with a chainsaw. This was in order to lop off some of the smaller branches so that we could haul them out.

The large ones were chopped up for firewood but the smaller spindly ones got piled up into a big bonfire. As I was feeding all this wood into the fire I thought about the biscuit pots which had been sat in the back of my car for weeks. Not having a kiln of my own has made it a little difficult to fire pots.

So I grabbed as many as I could carry in one go, (ten or twelve pots) and got them involved. Some I put towards the outside of the fire, some deep within it and some buried in ashes. I had heard that salt can give interesting effects when applied to pots in pit firings, so brought our container full of table salt from the shack. I liberally salted the pots which were visible and hoped for the best.

As I was walking back to the fire I noticed a heap of old props; furniture from the old salt kiln that was recently knocked down. Most of them are coated in a lovely greenish brown glaze from many harsh salt firings. I thought about it and figured it was worth trying to get some of that embedded salt to vaporise again, or the glaze to melt, so placed some props inside pots and some next to them.

Tea bowl, cast into the fire.To the right of it you can see another small pot glowing under a branch.

Here they are a little closer.
A few on the outer edges of the fire.

Smoke and light. Fantastic. An almost spiritual scene.

The view from back by the equipment.

I heard a couple of pops within the first ten minutes and wondered whether they were all going to explode. It seemed to calm down though and as time passed the pop-pings decreased. As I continued to stoke the fire with fresh branches some of the pots shifted position and I lost one to a fairly large log collapsing down on it. Crunch. 

This was not a conventional pit firing by any means-I didn't cover the pit, rather just kept stoking until I was out of wood, and let it die down naturally. Soon I'll post on the pots that made it out and the dinner that resulted.