DEANA LEE Ceramic Designer

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I love the effects that are possible through the power of fire, heat and smoke on clay. In order to alter these results I attach various items to each piece including foil, banana skins, wire wool and copper, to name but a few. In addition, I also add different oxides and salt to the firing to add subtle colour. Of course, these are not the only things I take into consideration as the weather and the type of wood used will create varying finishes.

Each of my smoke fired pieces are individually sculptured and then burnished, polished, at least three times using a simple metal spoon or a polished pebble. This causes the clay to compress and gives it a mirror-like finish. It is then coated in terra sigillata and buffed. I bisque fire my art to a low temperature of about 900 C before they are placed in a barrel for either a long or short firing. Afterwards, I clean the artwork and polish it with beeswax in order to bring out the stunning surface detail.

Pre-firing covering - image copyright Deana Lee
Burnishing with Spoon - image copyright Deana Lee

First, I place fireproof bricks on the bottom of the barrel and then layer sawdust on top. I stack my art in the barrel with sawdust, straw, newspaper and wood, before I douse it with lighter fluid and set it on fire, with the lid on but not completely closed. As the fuel consumes the oxygen a reduction atmosphere is created and this causes the blacker pattern on the surface. As the ash falls away the atmosphere is re-oxidised and this creates lighter colours. This process takes approximately four to five hours to complete.

Long Barrel Firing - image copyright Deana Lee

Similar to a long barrel firing but here I only use newspaper so it only takes about half an hour to complete and produces wonderful sepia coloured markings.

Short Barrel Firing - image copyright Deana Lee



Bricks are used to create a double walled container. Sawdust is then layered deeply in the bottom before the pieces are added on top. Sawdust is then added around the art until completely covered. Newspaper is then placed on top and lit. Metal sheeting is placed over until it is on fire and then the stones are removed to keep the smoke in. It is then left to burn overnight.

Sawdust Firing - image copyright Deana Lee


A pit is literally dug in the ground and sawdust poured in. The pieces are placed on to the sawdust and then hay or newspaper is used to completely cover the work. Wood is then gently placed on top and then set alight. Once burning metal sheeting overs the flames and it is left overnight to burn.

Pit Firing - image copyright Deana Lee


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