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About Horse Hair Pottery and Ceramics: Article or Project

A Bit About Horse Hair Pottery and Technique

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Horse Hair Pottery dates back many years and is credited to the Navajo. Some believe its origin was an accident when an Indian’s hair had been blown by the wind and attached itself to an item that had just come out of the firing pit. The Indian then, liking the effect, began applying hairs from their horse to their pieces.

This technique is very popular in Southwestern cultures and decor. Quite a few people have enshrined their favorite horses by having pottery made using their animal’s hair.


Basically, the process involves removing bisque from the firing while still hot (1300 degrees Fahrenheit) and carefully draping single strands of hair over and around the item. The horse hair will burn and shrivel up and will leave permanent imprints of its presence on the item.

It is pretty much like a RAKU firing. If the item is removed from the kiln while hot, the hair when applied to the piece will flame and will result in a trace of the burned residue. When doing the Raku method, long tongs are used to set the item upon straw or other combustible material to carbonize the bottom, then removed and set somewhere else to apply the hair. Please use all safety measures when doing Raku firings. (See more about the art of Raku)

Most typically, however, the modern potter/ceramist will take their item which is plain or painted with an underglaze design and fired once and then wrap wet hair around it and fire it again. The finished item is not glazed after this process. Often a wax is applied to give a better sheen on the finished piece. (Floor wax, polyerethane, etc.)

An alternative effect is to do the same with a glaze firing. When applying your glaze, wrap the hair around the wet glaze, creating a rippling or web-like design and then fire your item normally. This method does not create as vivid a pattern. You can get a better pattern by applying after firing glaze, when it cools to 1300 degrees, remove from the kiln with tongs and wrap or drape the hair on the piece.

This is a fun technique to use and it creates one of a kind works of art. Please note that the residue can build up in your kiln and you need to vacuum and clean it out on a regular basis so as to not contaminate other firings.

Photo Credit with permission: Terry Hicks

 

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About Horse Hair Pottery and Ceramics

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