Lockdown revived my dustbin burner: Part 1

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Lockdown revived my dustbin burner: Part 1


Art and photography


My First Three Attempts Being confined to home and garden, I took the opportunity to do something that I have wanted to do for a few years now… pit firing. I have a few pieces made from wild clay (i.e. clay found/dug up) that no one wanted to fire in their kilns so I thought that the time had come to give it a try from home. Our garden is small and has a couple of trees so digging a pit was not an option, so I turned to the dustbin burner instead. Here I have documented my first three firings which happened in the same week as lockdown started. I have continued with about one firing per week after that. I’m completely hooked! :)

Fire 1 - 23rd March 2020: Limited success as my sawdust was a bit damp so it didn’t burn down as it should have. The lady sculpture (covered in my partner’s beard trimmings to see what glaze it might give) was at the top of the sawdust so did get some interesting results. The other pieces had to go into a second fire.

Photo1: Lady before firing (with Dave’s beard trimmings)

Photo 2: Lady after firing (the “metallic” glaze patches are as a result of the beard.)

Photo 3: The dustbin “kiln” - weather perfect for firing. No wind.

Fire 2 - 24th March 2020:

After drying the sawdust on a sheet in the sun, I put the pieces that didn’t get “cooked” into the fire again. This time the fire burnt all the way down and I got some amazing results. The real surprise was a fresh leaf that I had put between two terracotta tiles, expecting some interesting marks on the tiles, but instead the leaf came out in amazing iridescent colours!

Photo 4: I’m placing the pieces into the dustbin on top of the sawdust (I had lined the inside of the dustbin with bricks) together with a selection of organic matters for colouring. I have tried hair, banana skins, salt/pepper, leafs, lavender, tea/coffee, copper wire, iron, spiders webs and finger nails. It then gets covered with twigs and wood which will burn down to finally light the sawdust which is when I put the lid on and let it slowly burn down over night. A few of the pieces broke during the firing.

Photo 5: Pestle and mortar got some nice colours

Photos 6 & 7: The leaf!

Fire 3 - 26th March 2020:

The results from this fire was to turn everything really dark. I was disappointed when I first got everything out but after cleaning, buffing and waxing it made things look like bronze and I love it.

Photo 8: Acorn made from wild clay found in Wytham Woods (blue/green clay)

Photo 9: Tomtenissar also made from Wytham Woods clay (only the one to the right was fired)

Photo 10: Bird before firing(red clay)

Photo 11: Bird after firing - made from wild clay found in Havant.

This submission is from a member of the Adult Learning Group. The Adult Learning Group includes Searchers (a research group), Art Group, and Creative Writing Group.


March 2020


Lillian Spearing


Museum of Oxford


Lillian Spearing

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