Ceramics -- Horsehair and Feather Pottery


9 Years
May 25, 2010
Portland Metro Area, OR
I have tons of hobbies, and one is ceramics! I do both sculpture and pottery. I figure this is the most relevant to a chicken board. XD

These are pretty old. I need photos of my newer pieces!

This is made with ChuChu's (African grey parrot) feathers and Xandy's (Arab gelding) tail hair.

I really don't like the shape, but I like the placement of the feather on this side, framed by the hair, the design of the surface decoration came out very well. I've got a few other (much nicer) pots bisqued (ready for feather and horsehair firing) but the outdoor kiln used for this process is weather dependent ... and this is Oregon. I'm hoping I'll get a lot done this summer.

Horsehair pottery is made by heating the pottery up in the kiln to over 1300°F (since I do this with raku loads, I fire to a higher temp than usual for horsehair, around 1800°F, and just wait for the piece to cool to 1300). The piece is taken out of the kiln while at this temperature, and then hair is laid over the surface, which burns a carbon imprint into the clay. If the wind is blowing you get a shadow effect like in this pot. There's a window of maybe 30 seconds to do this; too hot and the hair doesn't leave nice lines, and too cool (under 900 degrees) and it doesn't burn.

Yes, it smells very bad while doing it.

Any hair or fur will leave an imprint, but will give you very different results. I would like to try Morgan's fur some time, I bet it would be cloudy and smokey looking, rather than having lines. Can't wait to see how silkie feathers look! A local emu farmer gave me some emu feathers -- those leave a very distinctive mark, of course.

The textural lines are actually from burnishing, which is where you align the platelets of clay in one direction to give it a soft sheen. I'm better at it now so it doesn't look so ridged. Ugh. This piece is very personal to me but the more I look at it the more I dislike it, except the awesome feather placement. *lol*

Two of ChuChu's feathers on the back with some Xandy hair squiggles.

This is the kind of detail the feather imprint gives. Isn't that incredible? This is what I have for my avatar here.

A crappy photo of the bottle I did last summer. I sold this one to my uncle so I can't take better pictures. I used an underglaze to give it some color. I like the shape on this one far better than the other.

I auctioned off a personalized horsehair pot last fall to benefit BEAT Riding Center (the non-profit therapeutic stable I work at). The person who won the auction gave me hair from their horse who had died suddenly of cancer last year to make the pot with. It was really special to make that.


11 Years
Sep 25, 2008
Orlando, Florida
Do you take commissions? I have parrots and horses and would love to have a pot made like the first one!! Please PM me with details if you do.

Mary Of Exeter

10 Years
Apr 10, 2009
Rowan County, NC
Amazing! I would have never thought of that! How on earth do you get the stuff on there though? It seems like 1300 degrees would be giving off a LOT of heat. Heck, I don't even like opening the oven and having the heat woosh in my face
It also seems that things would start burning/melting before it even touches the pot.

Would it work if you were to press the feathers/hair into the pot while the clay is still soft, and letting it burn away in the kiln? Then maybe you could get some texture and the neat-o stamp effect


9 Years
May 25, 2010
Portland Metro Area, OR
Quote:Sometimes! I'm not right now because of the weather, kiln access, and other stuff out of my control. But I will be on and off in the future!

What I prefer to do is make the pot, have people send me the feathers and hair (more than will be necessary to make the piece) and apply it to the pre-made pot. The reason I do it this way is that ceramics is a fairly fickle process, and a piece can be lost at any point. It takes weeks (sometimes months, depending on weather and other circumstances!) to make one piece, so this way if I mess up, I can just substitute another pre-made pot, instead of making the person wait all that time again, and I'm less attached to the pot itself.

Sometimes I will make a completely personalized pot, such as with the animal's name and dates, particularly if the hair is from an animal that passed away.

Works with chicken feathers too of course!

Ha ha ha! I know so many people who have burned off their own eyebrows doing this, yes -- it's super hot! The woosh of opening the kiln is INTENSE... you definitely have to stand to the side.

The pot is literally glowing red, flames are shooting out, it's great fun. I use metal tongs to handle the piece and set it on something that isn't flammable (cement or a metal stool). Then I use my bare hands to lay the hair against the pot by holding the ends, very carefully. I haven't burned myself *yet*, knock on wood. It burns instantly upon contact, goes up in a puff of stinky smoke! I'm left holding just the shriveled ends.

Feathers are much more complicated, because if you just press them against the pot, you won't get the whole imprint -- just part of the shaft, really. I use a method that involves ceramic insulation of a flat surface and applying the pot to the feather!

Quote:I do do that kind of pottery, often with leaves or feathers. I'll have to take a pic and post it. I don't think it would work with hair, it's just too fine. Pressing it into the soft clay leaves an impression, but no color imprint. It doesn't get too much detail from feathers, but the detail from leaves is pretty impressive. The carbon burns out completely at the temperatures used to bisque ceramics. Bisque firing turns the soft clay into ceramic material without entirely fusing (vitrifying) it, so it's still porous enough to hold the carbon imprint of the hair and feathers. When I use things to make an imprint, I finish it by painting it with a metallic oxide, then wiping it off, so the oxide stays in the imprint and really brings it out after the glaze firing.

Quote:Thank you!

When I get my chickens I plan on making them a ceramic feeder. XD I have made several bird feeders (hopper style), bird houses, and bird baths, and it's so great to watch the wild birds use them. Rewarding. And easy to clean and disinfect!
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