Susan Barrett Studios

Creative Process

The process begins by preparing the clay and shaping the vessel on the wheel

The relation of surface and form is important in each of my vessels. The shapes come from an ancient and universal family of rounded forms. By applying the process of exploration and refinement to these forms, I am essentially exploring their mystery and meaning through the ritual of their creation. Using patterns, I organize the random and chaotic pit-firing markings.


After bisque firing, the patterns are created with a wax resist and the vessel is fired in a raku kiln to 1400F

These patterns are sometimes mathematical, sometimes emotional, but always drawn from within and are intended to evoke images of an evolving planet. Each piece is wheel-thrown, stone burnished and then coated with terra sigillata. After bisque firing, the patterns are created with a wax resist and the vessel is fired in a raku kiln to 1400• F; they are then placed red-hot in sawdust where the actual pit firing takes place.


The larger pieces are fired individually; the smaller pieces are fired in groups of two or three. The sawdust, size of the pots, composition of the resist and weather conditions all play an important part in the final surface image. With so many variables at work, each vessel achieves a uniqueness that is impossible to duplicate.


After firing, the pots are cleaned to remove any residue, allowed to dry and then coated with a natural tung oil varnish to protect the surface and enhance the coloration

After firing, the pots are cleaned to remove any residue, allowed to dry and then coated with a natural tung oil varnish to protect the surface and enhance the coloration. From start to finish, the whole process takes four to six weeks.


The pots are bisque fired as high as possible for durability, but low enough to maintain the smooth surface and survive the thermal shock of pit firing. Therefore, the clay is still porous and not meant to hold water.