Finishing My Backyard Primitive Pottery


After several attempts at making a simple cup, (see my previous post on making primitive pottery) I finally got one that was good enough to fire.

Above you see my pieces ready to go. I am fully aware that my cup looks like a small pot. The other piece is a bowl.

I fired the pieces using a pit firing technique.

I dug a hole in my garden and filled it with sawdust.


I embedded the pieces in the sawdust and built a fire on top.


I let it burn down flat with the surface.


I made s’mores (you do not waste an opportunity).
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I placed a large, flat rock on top and left it overnight.


The Results

The cup turned out pretty good. It was black from the carbon in the fire.

Side-note about firing pottery

Let me take a moment to talk about what happens when you fire clay. The hardness, porosity, and durability is all affected by the clay and the temperature to which it is fired. A piece of pottery that is considered stoneware has been heated to a temperature where the clay has come together and is no longer porous. This makes it foodsafe, as it were. In a pit fire, you do not achieve temperatures to create a stoneware piece of pottery. You also cannot produce a glazed pot at the lower temperatures of a pit fire. You end up with and unglazed, low-fire earthenware. As such, it is quite porous—like a terra cotta pot.

Back to the main story

To make my cup watertight, I waxed it after it was fired.



It actually works quite well.

The Missing Design Considerations

I mentioned earlier that it looks like a small pot, rather than a cup. As you might expect, it feels like drinking from a small pot. As with anything, there is nuance and design in making a cup that is comfortable to hold and from which to drink. This is not one of those cups. I plan to keep trying. Until then, when people say “Are you drinking from a pot?” I can say, “Pretty much, but let me tell you about how I made it...”