Sunday, 11 January 2009
Henry Sandon’s Surprise Visit
During Henry’s visit to the Gallery at Bevere's Graduate Show he enjoyed talking to many of the graduates.
This picture shows him talking to Jane White deeply engrossed in the art of ‘Pit Firing’
and studying one of her completed bowls.
This is what Jane has to say -
“Jane Perryman says in her book ‘Smoke Firing’, that the practice of pit-firing was ‘developed in California during the 1970’s and 80’s, partly inspired by the explorations into low-temperature firing techniques by the ceramicist and educator Hal Riegger.’ In fact it often takes place on the beaches out there as a kind of communal pit-firing beach party, which sounds great fun!
I was inspired to start pit-firing during my 3rd year at University, and after attending one of Jane’s ‘Summer Workshops’ in Suffolk. The whole process with its risks, excitement, and endless possibilities fascinated me, and I couldn’t wait to get started. Fortunately I live on an isolated farm, as I tend to fill the valley with smoke on pit-firing days! Also I had access to all the machinery to dig my pit, which is about 20ft long, 5ft across and 4ft deep, and to keep it supplied with wood and sawdust.
My work is all hand built and burnished several times with semi-precious polished stones, and after applying a fine slip to the ware it is low bisque fired. I wrap copper wire and all sorts of organic material, seaweed, driftwood, and copper compounds around the pieces, as ‘newspaper parcels’. With other pieces I just place the material around or in the ware, and then add more material and cow manure to the sawdust in the pit, before placing about 3ft of timber on top, some straw and paper, and then setting light to it all! After an intense burning for about 3 to 4 hours I cover the pit with metal sheets and leave it for about 36 hours to cool slowly and allow the volatile gases which swirl around the pit to make their marks.
Unearthing it all on the third day is somewhat akin to an archaeological dig, as you never know what you are going to find, sometimes amazing, sometimes disappointing, but I always try and learn something each time”