About Jodie Atherton

Learn about my pit firing process & results

I have specialized in pit firing ever since I first did pit firing in college with an old trash can from my dad. I immediately fell in love with the process, the unknown, and the surprising results leaving me wanting more.

Jodie Atherton with sculpture next to vintage van

The Process

The pit firing process reminds me of cooking over an open fire while camping, something I do every summer. I soon realized this process has virtually unlimited opportunities for experimentation. The sheer amount of organic materials there are to use combined with the temperature and duration of the fire transform clay surfaces into a plethora of different designs and a myriad of marbleized patterns and colors.

There are many ways of doing pit firings and because I now live within the city limits, I have adapted this process into an old weber bbq a friend was getting rid of. It works for me and is just one of many ways of doing a pit firing.

I start by building a fire and letting it burn down into a nice bed of coals. Think s’more roasting perfect. While the coals are forming, I wrap my object, like a gift I plan to give the fire, in newspaper, and an assortment of organic materials. I have used everything from seashells to bison manure, citrus and banana skins, pistachio shells, and flower petals. Once the coals are ready, I gently set the piece and surrender my hopes and dreams to the fire and its desired outcome, enjoying watching the flames burst out again. I use tongs to stir the coals as needed and enjoy seeing the beginnings of the flame-licked surfaced arise from the smoke.

The Results

Pit firing bonds me with the artist and my artwork with fire. It’s a series of risk-taking while being present. Observing, and discovering what’s continually evolving during the firing process and trying to create order within the chaos of the flames. Learning and leaning into the wind is a process of living in the moment. Each piece is 100% unique as the flames lick and marks each piece differently, and I can always re-fire them if the look doesn’t strike me. Mother Nature inspires me by what she brings to the table and I strive to find the balance she always has in mind.

I liken the joy I feel when I see the colors and patterns reveal themselves as I wash off the ash to Christmas morning when I was a kid. Unwrapping the gifts to reveal the magic and love inside the colorful wrapping created by fire and organic material.

I enjoy going on trips and discovering long journeys of self-discovery in areas where few people explore. By doing this I bring these same lessons to my studio work and I hope this conveys the joy I find when I am making it.

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