Burn Beautiful


Happy Mabon! I hope you all are have a rich and fulfilling Fall. Im going to post some things here that I wrote ages ago for my email newsletters. I thought a wider audience might find them interesting as well.

Let me tell you a little about my wood firing process.

To celebrate Mabon I fired some pottery in my backyard, with an ancient technique – very similar to the way I learned to fire pottery in Mexico. If you are interested… I’ll take you through how its done. You’ll just have to imagine the smell of hardwood smoke and the gentle crackle of the fire.

I started with a hand built pinch pot, which I have burnished, or polished, to a shine. I also made a rune bead set; 24 beads, each with a Viking rune letter. These go into a tin can with some paper, wood shavings, and scrap bits from my friend who is a carver.

I get the ol’ Webber grill going in the traditional way… charcoal briquettes! As those are doing their warm up thing… I put the can with the pottery in it just next to the warming charcoal. This pre-warms the pottery so it doesn’t get heated too fast when the big fire happens, which might cause cracking. Once the charcoal is all warmed up and mostly white, I spread out the coals, put the can with the pottery nestled into the middle, and stack as much firewood as I can in the grill.

I kinda play the rest by ear; lid or no lid, add more wood, etc.. I am aiming for that tin can in the middle to glow light orange for about an hour or two. How hot is that? One of these days I’ll stick a thermometer in there. But for now its… hot… hot enough (I think. I hope. Um… yeah).

This photo is steaming tea in one of my ‘ugly mugs’ while watching the fire. An altogether enjoyable way to spend a Vancouver ‘winter’ day! (I make these big fat mugs with felt covers and cork tops. I don’t know why I call them ‘ugly mugs’, they are really more like ‘snuggly mugs’. I sold all but one of them over Yule. I’ll make more. Oh, I’m off topic. Sorry)

Eventually I put the lid on tight, and just leave it be. I need to wait several hours for everything to burn out, and cool down. It’s so hard to wait! I’m so worried things cracked or exploded, or didn’t fire all the way, leaving the pot crumbly. Aaaaagggghhh! But finally…

(How cool is this shot?)

And…Viola! It’s not broken or exploded…

When the pot is all cleaned up, I give it a tap test; gently tap it with something metal, like a nail. If it makes a ringing noise, sort of like glass, its fired all of the way and has no cracks. If it makes a sort of ‘tonk’ sound, it did not fire right.

It rings beautifully! And the rune beads look like all but one came through perfectly! At the next full moon I shall sit outside with this little bowl filled with water. Reflecting the moonlight it will made a perfect black mirror – like a crystal ball – and we shall see what it has to say to me.

Thanks for sticking with me though that. I hope you liked hearing about a different way to make pottery. 



Ilena Lee

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