In late October of 1999, I attended a pit-fire workshop at the Nottingham Center for the Arts in San Marcos, California. It was a thrilling and inspiring experience that helped motivate me to continue working on this section of my web site, the ClayStation's Firing Guide. "Pit Firing Techniques with Marc Lancet," is an example of what is to come in the other Firing Guide Technique pages of this web site.
By reading through this Firing Guide, you will get well acquainted with the Pit firing process and be fully prepared to participate in the process with someone who is experienced in this type of firing process.
For those who do have experience in pit firing, this web guide will certainly help you as well. This information is inspired by the techniques shown by Lancet. Lancet is a Ceramics and Sculpture Professor at Solano Community College in norhthern California. He has performed pit firings for over seventeen years, so his techinques are certainly some of the best. He truly knows what works and what doesn't. If you are like me who has stuggled in the past with getting good results in a pit firing, these guidlines will certainly help you be successful in your next pit firing.
A pit firing is one of the most universal, primitive firings executed today. Firings of this type were an adaptation to firing the ware in bon fires. At some point it was discovered that digging a pit in the ground and firing the ware in a pit led to higher temperatures resulting in a more hard, enduring fired clay. As time continued pit firing evolved to digging holes in the mountainside, a primitive version of today's Anagama. Today we have kilns so why should we still conduct these primitive firings? Well in the past it was done to harden the clay, but now our goal is to achieve surface coloration and marking that only a pit firing can provide. Also experiencing a pit-fire will give you a sense of what it was like to fire clay long ago before the invention of the kiln.
Diagrams of a pit-fire, which can be found on the next page, are similiar to the pit that was dug at the workshop I attended at the Nottingham Center for the Arts. Fig. 1 is a cross section side view, and Fig. 2 is a cross section front view of a pit-fire.