Scottish Potters Alternative Firing Workshop

Last weekend I attended a great weekend workshop on Alternative Firing Techniques organised by Scottish Potters at Springfield Arts in Arbroath.

The workshop was delivered by American potter Marcia Selsor. I thought I’d share some of my results from the techniques I tried. It was great to try so many different approaches. I thought I’d like Obvara most but actually preferred saggar firing. There are definitely techniques I want to try again and experiment with, just need to get a Raku kiln… Planning to bring some of these pieces to Potfest Scotland to make this a reality!



I didn’t have a lot of success with this technique but I think more a textured surface would have improved my results.









Saggar Firing

This was my favourite method. I love rhubarb and can’t believe it gave such a strong colour on the pot, close up it has an almost metallic sheen. The close fitting saggar gave the best results, I used two old bisque bowls which had a snug fit. The saggar I made, which was cylindrical didn’t do much, producing a very subtle ombré effect.

Foil Saggar

These pots also came out with very interesting surfaces. Stronger concentrations gave much better results. The good thing about all of these techniques is that you can easily refire and start with an (almost!) blank canvas.

This is something I want to explore a lot more. The seaweed I added gave a lovely soft gray colour. Very smooth burnished surfaces came out best here.





Horsehair and Feather

This was great fun and definitely a case of go minimal for best results, in my opinion. I couldn’t quite get the feathers to look as good as I wanted them to but the horsehair (from a Clydesdale) worked really well. Getting the pot to the right temperature was key for good results, too hot and the hair/feather sizzled uncontrollably. I’d like to work on this more and get more control of the results.


Last week I did another pit firing – with some of my best results so far. (Check out my Etsy shop for a few pieces currently available). I’ve learned a lot from other potters and from experimenting with my pit.

I’ve been really fortunate to work with Cambo Gardens in Fife who have given me a small space to experiment. The aim is eventually to offer others the opportunities to come and fire pots in this exciting and unpredictable way too. My pit is gradually getting bigger, the hotter it is the better the results have been.

I use a lot of organic materials in my firing – seaweed, banana skins, coffee, shells, plants/grasses, pine cones…plus driftwood which has lots of minerals in it as well as some oxides and salts..

I surround the pots with organic materials and wrap each one in newspaper. They are placed on a bed of straw and sawdust with some colourants sprinked about them. I put some wood on top to protect the pots before adding the driftwood.

Next up is a layer of driftwood, sawdust, colourants and newspaper. I try to have a touch paper ‘fuse’which burns down into the depths of the pit.

It’s great to see the pots emerge from the embers, not so great to hear a ping which might mean a crack…I’ve been pretty lucky so far.

I create a reduction atmosphere by covering the pit and sealing it as best I can. Then it gets left for at least 24 hours. When the pots are cool they get emptied of ash, washed, then polished up.

I’m gaining an understanding of where are the best spots in the pit and how to pack pots for better results. Lots of experimenting so far and more to come.

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