Art students at Town of Webb Union Free School District enrolled in my Studio, Independent classes, and Art Club performed a Native American Pit Firing, created Natural Sculpture builds, and en plein air drawings-paintings on Friday, May 30 at Adirondack Woodcraft Camps. Accompanying us was Tim Leach.
This was our fourth year of traveling to Woodcraft Camps for the project.
Pit Firing is a Native American-inspired method of ceramic firing that creates unpredictable smoke patterns on the bisque works surface.
First, students completed the traditional coil build of their pieces with Buff High Fire Clay as it is stronger than typical White Clay and can withstand the thermal shock involved in a quick burning pit fire.
Once the piece became “bone dry” or greenware, Terra Sigillata was applied. Terra Sigillata generally is translated as “sealed-earth” and is similar to glaze, but different in a few distinctive ways.
It consists of an incredibly small amount of liquid plate-like particles that remain after days of water evaporation from a clay and water mixture.
Sodium silicate is used as a deflocculant to separate the clay particles and water into the tiny plate-like particles within a large container.
The water is poured off from the top and only a skimming of useful Terra Sigillata is the result.
The work, after being polished by hand, and bisque-fired was then placed within a 3x3x4 foot pit that was generously dug at Woodcraft Camps by Mr. Dave Leach.
Upon arrival in the morning we began preparing the firing pit. First, it was lined with eight inches of sawdust that all 20 pieces were carefully nestled into.
Secondly, 12 inches of paper shreds were layered on top of the work to cushion and protect it throughout the firing.
The third step in the pit preparation consists of layering kindling on top of the paper shreds. Students carefully filled the pit with some dry split wood and surrounding brush.
Tiffany Outtrim had the honor of lighting the pit this year.
The pit burned at temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees for approximately four hours. Once the fire was reduced to a thick bed of blazing hot coals, the students and I carefully maneuvered through the coals to expose their ceramic work.
Each and every piece retrieved from the firing was unique, dynamic, and successful. No two pieces are alike.
A Pit Firing encompasses a vast array of uncontrollable variables.
Thankfully for the forth year in a row, they all worked in our favor!
While the ceramic work fired within the glowing flames and scorching coals students worked in groups to construct Andy Goldsworthy-influenced sculptures around the Woodcraft grounds.
Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, photographer, and environmentalist living in Scotland who produces site-specific sculptures and land art situated in natural settings.
Students were introduced to him through viewing his award-winning “Rivers and Tides” documentary film.
He regards all of his creations as fleeting and photographs each piece upon completion. His goal is to understand nature by creating within it as intimately as possible.
His art involves the use of natural and found objects, to create both temporary and permanent sculptures, which draw out the character of their environment.
The students and I anxiously scouted the weather for days in hopes of sunshine and blue skies. Mother Nature provided a gorgeous day with a short burst of rain during the potluck lunch.
Many students attended the trip for the first time and others are seasoned veterans that look forward to this day all year.
This educational field trip was an exceptional success and an experience that will remain in students’ thoughts forever.
Thank you to Principal Swick and Tim Leach at Woodcraft Camps for permitting this opportunity for year number four.
I would like to take this time to thank Superintendent Germer, administration, staff, students, and the entire Town of Webb community for a fourth year of teaching that has breezed by.
I look forward to many more years of serving as the Fine Arts educator of your children.
I encourage you and your family to view art student passion at its finest at www.towschool.org. Please click the “Jr/Sr Departments” tab found at the top of the page and then “Art.”
You will find a variety of slideshows encompassing the Pit Firing field trip, VIEW student show, other field trips, student work, and daily K-12 fun within the art room!