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  • Writer's pictureJoey Serim

One of my favorite processes, more like an annual ritual, is a pit fire, held up in Dixon, NM, at the home of a distinguished potter and teacher, Lee Akins. 

I spend weeks making pots, applying a special slip called terra sigillata, then burnishing them to a lovely sheen.

The work is wrapped in various forms of copper, which creates wonderful, deep reds and purples, sometimes dashes of green as it fumes in the pit.

The pit is prepared by filling the bottom with cedar shavings, sawdust, crumpled newspaper.  All of these make clouds of beautiful, metallic blacks.

Next, our pots are nestled in and sprinkled with table salt, seaweed, salted dry corn husks. The salt creates lovely yellows and oranges.

After that comes more newspaper, untreated hardwood scraps, and hardwood logs like aspen, cottonwood, apple.  These create a very hot fire that will smolder and fume the pots overnight.

It's always exciting to light the pit and see the flames take over.  When they die down, the pit is covered with corrugated metal, and off we go to feast on a pot luck lunch.

We return the next morning to uncover the pit and retrieve our treasures.  It's time to ooh and aah over everyone's beautifully colored work, especially when it has been a great firing.  Occasionally there are disappointments such as cracks, but overall, everyone is delighted. 

This year, Sunday was cold and windy, with snow threatening so we huddled around the pit and hurried our wrapping and boxing. I took my pots home to live with them on my dining room table for about a week, and photograph them to add to this website.  Take a look!


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