Pit and Saggar Fired Ceramics- Lesley Jensen

Artist Bio

Working with clay has been a part of my life since I was a child, where I often dug the soft clay out of my backyard and molded it into simple clay bowls and animals.  High school and college ceramic classes ignited my lifelong obsession with the seductive material, ultimately changing the path of my future.

The process of making ceramics has always intrigued me. As important as the final product is with any piece of art, it is the journey each pot takes through its making that captivates me. The endless ways to form, decorate, glaze, and fire ceramics can consume a lifetime of experimentation and play.  For the last 30 years I’ve been exploring new surfaces, new ways to fire my work. The unglazed surface of a burnished vessel has become an intriguing canvas in which I can experiment with a variety of firing techniques.

Some of the alternative firing methods I experiment with are pit firing, sagger firing, and also raku. Pit firing involves burnishing the surface of a pot for hours and then firing in an open pit with wood and cow dung at the beach.  The surface of the vessel takes on an imprint of the burning atmosphere and chemicals around it.  As each pot emerges from the pit there’s an incredible element of surprise in seeing the effect of the flame on the surfaces, as well as finding which pots survived the firing (there’s often is a 50% breakage rate).

My work has always been vessel oriented, influenced by Greek, Hittite, Minoan and early Native American work.  Even though my work is mainly thrown on the wheel, I enjoy altering and playing with the thrown form, often stretching the limits of the material.

Teaching ceramics is also an integral part of my life work.  My full-time job at College Park High School, as well as my night job teaching adults through Civic Arts in Walnut Creek, keeps my creative juices flowing.  Often, I learn as much through my students as they learn through me. I am lucky to be able to share my knowledge of something I love with people of all ages and abilities.  Also, one of my greatest joys in ceramics is not just making the work, but to find out a piece of my pottery has become an integral part of someone’s life.


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