- Diane Etheridge
I am a potter living in North Devon and I use the primitive form of smoke-firing to create simple ceramic vessels. I enjoy the progression, intensity and unpredictability of the smoking process. I am influenced by the varied shapes and colours, patterns and textures left behind by the receding tide and I am constantly searching my local beach to add to my collection as inspiration for my work.
Using stoneware clay, I employ coiling, slabbing and moulding techniques to create forms reminiscent of pebbles, shells or fragments of driftwood. When the form is nearly dry, layers of terra sigillata slip is applied which is then repeatedly burnished to a soft, delicate sheen before firing in an electric kiln. The final pattern is achieved with a secondary smoke-firing - the exciting and unpredictable part of the process! The piece is packed in several inches of sawdust and seaweed, and areas are masked off with a mixture of resist techniques to encourage rich and erratic markings giving varied layers and depth to the form. If the results are not satisfactory, then the whole firing process is repeated again. I have fired some pieces as many as eight times before I have got the right degree of carbonisation and am satisfied with the result. Finally, the piece is polished with layers of beeswax to enhance the smoky, burnished surface.
I love the unpredictability of smoke firing. After many hours of slow, controlled making, it is such a liberating experience to ‘surrender’ my work over to the fire and let nature have the final say in the decoration – bringing my pottery to life.