This is a project I plan to continue indefinitely; just an easy and time-space-energy-effective process to make some miniature clay objects that I like to make and rarely do because of time-space-energy limitations.
The process is simple.
During camping, I made very small clay whistles and figures that I could fit into an altoids box...
I used a rock as a surface, and my usual tools for whistle making, which include a chopstick, an exacto knife, a palete knife, a needle and a forming tool. You will notice the clay is white prior to firing.
I used sawdust to cushion the whistles as I put them in the altoids box, but also because sawdust will combust within the chamber creating a reduction atmosphere: as the burning hot atmosphere within the box is deprived of oxygen to burn, it will burn the chemical oxygen within the clay, turning it black.
It's like packing a mini kiln, which is something that, of course, attracts me very much. At night, I pack the box full of sawdust completely, and fire it. The most important thing is to increase the temperature slowly in the beginning. Strangely for clay, I fire these almost imediately after they're made, though sometimes they don't survive the temperature shock. I also make sure to reach plenty of temperature once the initial risk of busting is over, otherwise the clay will not bake to a vitrious state. Sometimes I cover the coals where the pieces are buried with metal sheets in order to dramatically increase the temperature. (I have used crushed soda cans; in scarse conditions they work great!)
All this is an alteration of a resurrected Native American technique that I learned very indirectly (via library) from Tewa potter Maria Martinez. I still have many years to practice before my pieces could look remotely as black and soft as hers.
Normally I would not make a fire just to cook some miniature pieces, so I throw the boxes into any other fire I come accross, camping, cooking or at a friend's gathering, etc. In this case though, I am also firing a large vessel, a "mama olla", which I might share in a future post. Unearthing the fired clay is so fun! We make a family event of it every time.
And last, is the reward of opening each small box, each containing miniature music-making treasures: pinch-size bits of meticulous work and devotion. some have survived the process, some have not.
Thanks for stopping by!