I was very excited to see obvara featured on The Great Pottery Throw Down recently. I first heard about Obvara at a ceramics symposium in Belarus in 2009 – I found it fascinating and loved the immediate effects of this technique. I shared a few images of some of my obvara fired pieces on Facebook and people became very interested and wanted more information – so in 2012 I started a Facebook page “Obvara firing technique” to spread the word and there are now over 3500 members.
When I learnt about it in 2009, there was very little information available and it was only known about in Eastern Europe. It is now practiced everywhere and has begun to be written about in alternative firing technique books and in various articles as well as featuring on prime time TV!
I have brought obvara to many places around the world – or maybe, I should say, obvara has brought me to many places. I have held workshops in South Africa, Malta, South Korea, Slovenia, Croatia, India, Australia, Turkey, Spain and Ireland.
Obvara, which means ‘scalded’ in Russian, is a traditional method of pottery decoration, dating back around 600 years, though there is very little written evidence, the technique was mainly handed down by word of mouth in a number of countries in Eastern Europe.
You need bisque fired pieces in a strong raku type clay, though it has worked well with porcelain too. Very little equipment is needed – a raku-style kiln, a gas burner and cylinder of gas, a few sets of tongs and a few buckets of mixture, which is made a couple of days before the firing, to allow it to ferment sufficiently and finally a few large buckets of water in which to cool the pieces.
The hot pot is taken from the kiln at around 850 C and plunged into a fermented mixture of yeast, flour, sugar and water, and then straight into cold water to stop the mixture ‘cooking’. This gives a very organic, purely decorative finish.
You can visit the Obvara firing technique page on Facebook here.
For information or to to see my work please visit the Market House Craftworks website here.