April 21, 2014

A Pot Outside It's Comfort Zone

The blue lidded vessel above is special. It was made for a solemn purpose and tested in the hottest part of the pit fire. For some months I had been experimenting with making a container just the right size and shape for a departed friend’s ashes. The first vessels were too small. The next vessel was too large. This one was just about right but almost did not come into being.

One of the things that made this vessel special is that I went together with the widow into a nearby woods to harvest the clay from which it was made. The clay came directly from a river bank. We carved out a good amount and hoisted it up the side of the bank. It took a few weeks to process the clay and a few months to let it age properly to increase its plasticity.

Last week I finally got around to making the lidded vessel from the clay. It was a white clay that fired to a buff pink color. I decorated the surface with blue and green terra sigillata and burnished it smooth with a stone. After the first firing I noticed that some of the glaze had delaminated off of the lower half of the vessel. I had already started the pit fire and had to leave this vessel out anyway because it would not fit (save the lid) into my makeshift metal container inside the pit. But I decided to try something different with this vessel. I sanded down the delaminated parts of the glaze to expose the clay body. I then wrapped the pot in a layer of Spanish Moss and with the help of a long crooked stick, lowered it directly into the fire. Smothering the fire with the rest of the Spanish moss, I said a potter’s prayer.

The next morning I opened the pit kiln and found to my surprise that the pot had survived the hot spot in the fire. Not only had it survived, the Spanish moss had burned a nice design onto the surface.

Another minor but fortuitous accident was that I found after delivering this gem to the widow that it matched the colors in her couch and rug. The vessel may not be a repository for my neighbor’s remains after all but at least it rests in a good place and stands as a memorial nevertheless.

No comments: