Sawdust Firing Love

Several weeks ago I went to do a sawdust firing with Jenny Barton (Enigma Pottery), whose classes I attended a couple of years ago to refresh my ceramics knowledge.  It was the first time I’ve tried sawdust firing and a one-off session, so, in the weeks prior to doing it, I spent a good amount of time reading up on the process. Sawdust firing, if you don’t know, is a low-fire technique similar to pit-firing, but done in a brick built kiln or some kind of metal container (which is what I used), rather than a hole in the ground. The kiln is packed with sawdust and other combustibles, which surround whatever it is you’re firing. Amongst this, other materials can be included to create different fumes which produce different effects and colours on your work. This might include salt (and anything salty!), oxides, dried plant matter, different woods, different metals, etc… Once you’ve got everything in, you set light to the top of the sawdust and let it burn away slowly.  There’s no glaze involved: the look of the finished ware is entirely dependant on the chancy business of how the materials in the kiln burn. So, for some time, I was walking around looking at everything, thinking, ‘Will that burn?’ and ‘What will it bring if it does burn?’ I got a bit fixated..

sd-bone-beads

I’m mad about the results. I feel I can enthuse more because there’s so much chance involved, so I can’t claim that much credit. I had been pretty apprehensive about what would happen in the firing. I feared that everything would just get oxidised and turn black because there’s so little surface area on a bead. Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing studio ceramicists whose work is largely focused on using and adapting the blackened surface that can be achieved on sawdust fired ware (and, the wholly black beads I got are lovely); I just wanted to try all the things at once and, hopefully, get lots of variety.  So I was pretty thrilled to discover all these rich colours and subtle details as I cleaned the ash away from the beads. Thrilled to the point of thinking, ‘Oh my goodness! I just want to do nothing but sawdust firing all the time for the forever now!’

sd-buds

One thing I did contribute was a hell of a lot of burnishing. I feel a little giddy when I reflect on the hours which I spent rubbing away at these pieces. And then, once they were out of the firing, there was a whole heap of polishing and waxing. It’s crazy time consuming, but the finished surface is so nice.

ad-burnished-rounds-1

(Just perfect for Autumn, hey?)

ad-burnished-rounds-2

In my reading around the subject, I discovered a way in which I can actually carry on doing sawdust firing on a smaller scale – which pleases me very much!  I had been in two minds about it, but now it seems I’ll be able to make more, I’m ready to part with some of these. I’m still havering on pricing, given how long it took me to burnish and polish some of them. There are also some more kinda matt sawdust fired beads which I didn’t burnish and they will be cheaper.

sd-cones

Which means it’s update time! And I’ve just finished a large load of my regular fired, glazed beads too. I’ll share some pictures of those here in the next day or so, once I’ve got some taken, and I’ll confirm details of the update. It will be next week some time. In the meantime, here’s some more sawdust fired lovelies…

sd-head-pins

sd-spindles-1

sd-spindles-2

sd-pebble-nuggets

sd-little-logs

sd-tusk-charms

sd-carved-and-faceted

sd-pods

Oh, I haven’t included a link to the bead shop! Here’s one now!

Must try harder…

Yes, I know, it’s been some while. What have I been doing? Well, amongst other things I’ve been producing lots of jewellery, the latest lot of which I’m going to share here. I’ve been doing a few pieces lately that, without planning it, have turned out a bit more colourful than the majority of my more recent work…

Shedding Treasure 1

Even a bit more pretty? Cute, even? Maybe it’s because it’s Spring? And things have been sunnier?

Shedding Treasure 2

I’m really liking the pictures taken on the mannequin too so you’re getting them as well!

the gypsy's warning 1

Again, kinda cute and folksy…

the gypsy's warning 2

Both of the pendants in these necklaces were made by Kathrin Kneidl (Donna Perlinplim). They have enough of a rough, scuffed, and rustic feel to avoid things looking too cutesy. I’ve been using quite a bit of Kathrin’s stuff lately. I’ve never found face beads appealing before but I really like the charms in these earrings.

idea-free sleep 1

Again, they’re Kathrin’s, as are the connectors below.

Lives Aslant 1

I buy far fewer beads these days – including art beads. I guess it’s because I’ve found other things to obsess over lately – silver, cabochons – but it also feels that now I’ve got this smaller group of makers that I buy from over and again, whose stuff I can’t resist and whose work just fits with what I want to make. Does that mean my style is finally becoming more cohesive? Who knows… Petra, of course, is one.

emissaries 1

Obviously, that doesn’t mean that I’m not open to stuff from other bead makers. Oh, no, no, no. I guess I just have a stronger sense of what I will use.

Another factor is that I am inevitably using far more of my own beads. The blistered drops in the pair above, and the pod pins below are both mine. The connectors are both by Petra – I probably don’t need to point that out…

eternal attendants 1

Actually the majority of the pieces in this latest batch feature my beads, especially my head pins. (I do love a handmade headpin – they just make things look far more integrated.

Little Tall Dark Circles 1

purveyor of clouds 2

I also LOVE these chunky Indonesian star beads – so cool!

Quiet but Constant 1

A number of the beads I’ve used here are the few that were unsold after my last update. I have a big new batch of beads on the go, although I’ve got distracted this last week or so, with metalwork stuff.

rose-rock, rock-rose 1

I keep mentioning this silversmithing and I’ve yet to share any images or anything here – or most places. I’m hoping my next post will see me putting this right. (Again, more of my beads and charms in these bracelets.)

simple pleasures 1

Finally, a couple more pairs of earrings.

Those Strange Affectionate Animals 1

When I initially took up doing metal stuff it was partly so I could do basic things like making bits like the hoops and connectors in these pieces – a bit of simple soldering, etc.

Your Ancient Cool 1

I hadn’t thought I’d end up throwing myself into learning how to set cabochons and stuff but that’s what’s happened. Anyway, fingers crossed I’ll get round to sharing some pictures soon. Till then, all these have been listed on Etsy. Some have sold but the rest are available here. Ciao!