Our ceramic pie birds are classic, minimal and functional works of art created for us in small batches by the wonderful team at Honeycomb Studio.
Our pie bird project was born after working with Honeycomb on the creation of our ceramic biscuit cutter. We fell in love with the aesthetic and integrity of a classic piece of specialty bakeware.
I walked into the studio one day to pick up a new batch of ceramics that were ready and noticed a newly formed pie bird sitting there on the table. I couldn’t believe how large it was in comparison to the “finished” bird I was used to seeing, and loved the beautiful grey color of the original clay. Although the object is simple, the process is a labor of time and love, needing so many steps from start to completion.
There are four main stages for each pie bird, and it all starts with a mold and “liquid porcelain” or what potters call “slip.” The slip is then allowed to sit in the mold for about half an hour. During that time, the mold removes a great deal of the moisture from the pie bird, leaving a shell of hardened clay. Courtney, founder and potter at Honeycomb Studio, shared with us that the pie bird itself loses about a third of its volume during creation. This is something that her and her team take into consideration when creating a mold for our pie birds, or any piece of pottery for that matter.
Although no two pie birds are alike, the mold helps keep the look uniform and assures that the quality is consistent.
Once removed from the mold, Courtney goes in and carves them by hand, removing any irregularities and flattening the base. She lightly scrubs the pie bird with a damp sponge, smoothing its visage and rounding out the shape. During this step, she also adds a small vent at the top of the bird — this is essential for the functionality of the pie bird, which is used to direct steam out of the pie. Not to mention, it gives the bird a “mouth” and adds to the character of the piece.
One of my personal favorite parts of the process is the makers mark. The same custom-made mark was placed prominently on our biscuit cutters. I love the look of a stamp on pottery, and Courtney and I both agree that it gives the piece a storied look and a history to be shared and passed along. This particular makers mark is special because it acknowledges the collaboration between heirloomed and Honeycomb Studio. When passed on, the legacy of the piece will be preserved in the mark of the artists.
After being stamped with the collaborative makers mark, the pie bird has to air dry for about a week. Although the waiting time is long, the wait is well worth it. When a week has passed, the pie bird is strong, smooth, dry and ready to be fired.
Throughout this process the piece will go through two separate firings in the kiln, starting with a slow 24-hour firing at a lower temperature — still a high 1900 degrees. The bird comes out of this lengthy firing stronger, more resilient, and smaller. After being smoothed with sandpaper, the bird is coated with a layer of hand-mixed glaze. Courtney dips her hands into the glaze, mixing it until it reaches a consistency she knows by touch and experience — the perfect texture for a smooth pie bird. It dries within minutes and is ready for the next firing: the glaze fire. The glaze fire is faster and hotter, at 2300 degrees. The glaze fuses to the piece, making it food-safe and permanently coated.
After all steps are completed, the result is a gorgeous pie bird, minimal, old-fashioned and ready to be used in the kitchen for generations.
Be sure to click here to pick up a Pie Bird, or one of the other beautiful pieces that Honeycomb has created for us, if you haven’t already!
Courtney Hamill of Honeycomb Studio + Ashley Schoenith of heirloomed
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heirloomed is a lifestyle brand with a mission of “keeping heirlooms around for another generation.” Our blog features stories about family recipes, creating traditions with your family, interior design and entertaining by mixing new and vintage pieces, classic style, and small town + historic travel. Our shop features a collection of “goods inspired by the past, for generations to enjoy” with an array of products and meaningful gifts including linen aprons, tabletop linens, art, ceramics and beyond. Learn more at www.heirloomedcollection.com.