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Ceramics, Exhibitions, Pit Firing, Sculpture

Pit Firing on the Beach at the Lorne Sculpture Biennale

As regular readers will know last weekend was the opening of the Lorne Sculpture Biennale, and I will be publishing a separate post about this soon.

But for now, I would like to share the ceramic pit firing I did on the beach as part of the Sculpturescape category in the show.

I arrived in Lorne on Friday afternoon so that I could borrow a friends ute to drive into nearby Colac and pick up the wood for the project which was kindly donated by Shelton Timber. The Biennale opening was on Saturday, and the Sculturescape projects began on Sunday.

The weather was very warm on Sunday, hitting the 30Cs during the day, which would normally be great – but when stoking an open fire for three hours… umm, not so good!!

A much needed paddle to cool off!

A much needed paddle to cool off!

I (well actually my partner Strobe – because the film crew came along just at that moment for an interview) began digging the pit at about 10am Sunday morning, and I then lit a small fire in the hole to dry out the moist sand. While this burned I prepared the sculptures using seaweed, copper wire, salted string and gumleaves.

Small fire to dry out the pit

Small fire to dry out the pit

When the small fire had burnt out and the pit was dry I added another layer of wood, some pine cones and cow dung and placed the sculptures on top. Salt, iron oxide, and copper sulphate were sprinkled over the ceramics, and a layer of seaweed was then added followed by another layer of wood. Some kindling and newspaper was the final layer, closely followed by a match, and the firing was underway!

Fire is Happening!

Fire is Happening!

As mentioned, the pit was stoked for about three hours, and again, thanks to my partner Strobe for splitting the wood as I stoked. When a good layer of coals covered the works the pit was covered with corrugated iron and sealed with sand, allowing for a slow simmer and cool down overnight.

Covered Pit for a Slow Simmer & Cooling

Covered Pit for a Slow Simmer & Cooling

Witches hats and remaining wood was used to barricade the pit – I didn’t want anyone falling in overnight!!



The following morning we arrived at the pit at 11am,and it was already cool enough to unload. The works were removed from the pit, and gently cleaned with a soft paintbrush and polished with a neutral shoe polish to seal the surfaces and give a soft sheen in keeping with the organic nature of the sculptures.

Cleaning the Sculpture

Cleaning the Sculpture

Though I have conducted many pit firings, I had never actually experienced one on the beach. This, combined with using a different wood than I usually use, made the firing a little unpredictable, but the results were great- and I sold some pieces on the day!!

Many people stopped and looked and chatted over the course of the two days, which is the entire point of the Sculpturescape category – having artist making works on site and engaging the general public, and making art more tangible and accessible.



There are five Sculpturescape projects each week during the Biennale, so twenty in all: I am hoping to get back to see a few of them and blog about them… but until then here is a sideshow of my pit firing this weekend – it does contain quite a few images, bit for those interested in the process it is well worth the look::-)

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UPDATE – For those interested in knowing more about pit firing and the artists that include this preocesss in their art practice I have written a book published by Schiffer which is available here
Book Cover


5 thoughts on “Pit Firing on the Beach at the Lorne Sculpture Biennale

  1. What a supreme undertaking this must have been, Dawn, but so well worth it! I would have found it hard to sleep that night between firing and awaking to see the results. The forms look so beautiful and such great surfaces. No wonder pieces sold right away!


    Posted by artdoesmatter | March 12, 2014, 4:52 am


  1. Pingback: Pit Fired Sculptures – available for sale | Dawn Whitehand: Visual Artist - March 21, 2014

  2. Pingback: May 1st is Buy From Women Day | Dawn Whitehand: Visual Artist - May 2, 2014

  3. Pingback: Lorne Sculpture Biennale – SculptureScape | Dawn Whitehand: Visual Artist - May 17, 2014

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This work by Dawn Whitehand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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