By Jackie Nelson
Local artists Lynda Legg, Marge Hamilton and Jolene Ratzlaff held a pit firing Hamilton’s home.
In addition to the work of these three artists, potter Paul Friesen, Hesston College students and several Hesston High School students had pieces to contribute for the firing.
On Friday afternoon, Hamilton, Legg and Ratzlaff carefully loaded a fire pit with over 50 pieces of pottery to fire.
The pit firing process is one of pottery’s oldest techniques. The heat of the fire, combine with the chemicals released by various burning substances, colorizes the pots.
The artists all agreed, when the pit begins to burn, the outcome is a gamble.
“You never know until you take the pots out if it was a success,” said Hamilton.
Artists mix various chemicals and organic materials to impart color to a piece.
“You have to have enough chemicals to get good color on a pot,” said Legg.
“Color can come from burning cow pies and organic material, dried fruit, peanut shells, corn husks, avocado seeds, lots of things,” said Hamilton.
“You can get some orange from the rinds of cantelopes,” said Ratzlaff.
While there is still some debate as to which substances produce the best colors, the variety of organic and synthetic material can produce a surprising array of hues.
“Depending on the material, you can get a different color,” said Legg.
Along with the challenges of working with unmeasured chemicals and imprecise heating, weather becomes a factor for pit firings.
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