Lockdown revived my dustbin burner: Part 2 The Garden



Lockdown revived my dustbin burner: Part 2 The Garden


Art and photography


Being pretty much confined to the house and garden during lockdown, I was spending a lot of time pottering around the garden. A blackbird and a robin used to follow me around to see what I might have dug up and there was a lot of bird action in trees and bushes to be seen and heard (spring!).


It felt apt to make some of my favourite garden birds out of clay. I had run out of wild clays so I had ordered some porcelain and raku clays, hoping they would be strong enough to take the stress from the pit (dustbin) firing but also “cook” enough in the lower heat.

Photos 1 & 2: Long-tailed tit (before firing).
Made from porcelain clay with metal wire feet.

Photos 3 & 4: Long-tailed tit (after firing).
Porcelain is normally fired at a very hight temperature in a proper kiln so I wasn’t sure if it would work. I actually found that it is quite reliable and almost always survives the firings. The metal feet were also intact (although unsurprisingly more fragile).

Photo 5: Robin before firing. Made from raku clay.

Photo 6: Broken robin straight out of the “kiln”. Surprisingly, the raku clay doesn’t often survive the pit firings and my robin unfortunately exploded. I’m really pleased with the colours he got though. I had dusted some iron stone on his belly which gave a nice red colour in the fire.

Photos 7 & 8: Cleaned, mended and polished robin. I found enough pieces to glue him back together.


Luckily, a crisis also brings out the best in people. A renewed neighbourly community spirit was emerging and a WhatsApp group was set up for each street in our neighbourhood, where people could request and offer help to each other. It also turned out to be a source for sharing allotment produce, garden plants and no longer wanted house items as a result of spring cleaning on mass. A kind neighbour had given me some rhubarbs from his allotment and I decided to make a clay bowl using the leaf to shape it. I also picked up other interesting leaves from my garden and on my “only once a day” allowed walks, to make more bowls and plates. Most were made in the raku clay and the majority unfortunately didn’t survive the firings. This is the cruel life of ceramic art! Although, it is worth it for the ones that do survive.

Photo 9: Leaf bowls and plates before firing.

Photo 10: Rhubarb bowl being put into the dustbin for firing. Twigs and wood is put on top and lit.

Photo 11: This is what I found when taking the lid off the dustbin the next day after firing the bowl.

Photo 12: The rhubarb bowl after mending. Didn’t find all the pieces but happy with the colour.

Photos 13 & 14: More broken leaf bowls and plates. Even the ones that look ok had cracks in them.

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.


April 2020


Lillian Spearing


Museum of Oxford


Lillian Spearing

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