Last week I facilitated a pit firing workshop for a community project which is part of a group exhibition commemorating the work of Landscape designer Edna Walling. One of the exhibiting artists Heather Hesterman is creating an installation consisting of ceramic pinch pots en masse and plants referencing Walling’s love of constructing gardens. The pots have been made by Hesterman’s friends, acquaintances and members of the community, both adults and children, coming together to make approximately 300 palm sized pots.
During Hesterman’s research for the project she discovered an anecdote found in Walling’s writings, indicating Walling’s joy of witnessing a friend hand-build a small pot from clay, fire it and then fill it with the local native plant species, Thomasia petalocalyx. This event together with ‘The Chalet’, which Walling had built along the Great Ocean Road, being burnt down, along with 2 other residences, inspired Hesterman’s methodology in developing the installation.
Part of that methodology involved the firing of the clay pots made during the project – enter a pit firing! As regular readers may know usually when I pit fire I add lots of varying organic ingredients and wrap the pots in seaweed, gum leaves, copper wire and the like. This endows the finished pots with a vibrant dappled colour response. Hesterman, however, wanted the smoky greys and blacks of fire to be captured on the pot surfaces, so the pit was fired using only sawdust. The sawdust creates a higher likelihood of a reduction atmosphere in the pit allowing for carbonisation of the clay surface.
The firing was successful overall with results ranging from soft smoky greys through to strong oil slick blacks.
Lisa Byrne, Director of ArtSpace at Realm, Maroondah City Council, is curating a group exhibition The Creative Legacy of Edna Walling. The exhibition commemorates the work of Landscape designer Edna Walling with artists Heather Hesterman, Rebecca Mayo and landscape designer/construction Sam Cox.
The exhibition will be held at the gallery ArtSpace at Realm, Ringwood Town Square, 179 Maroondah Highway, Ringwood. 03 92984553, 19 Sept – 13 Nov 2017, with the official opening on Saturday 21 October 2-4pm.
More information can be round on the website artsinmaroondah.com.au
And now enjoy the pics of the sawdust firing process 🙂