I’ve spent most of this last week cleaning up after the firing and getting ready for winter, which seems to be coming sooner than later. I’m moving back to my cosy little insulated studio. Most people with winter and summer studios have one in Maine and one in New Mexico…mine are 60 feet apart.
I really need to get back on the wheel soon, but I’ve been planning the world’s coolest outhouse and for some reason, this has turned out to be the time for digging a big hole. I’ve been building a library for it for years. And I don’t mean the old Sears catalog!
I did have cold visit to Emmett Snead’s farm for some pumpkin pickin’ with Emily and Ellie Bird. He grows these lovely, warty old varieties.
Ellie hypnotized by chickens.
I haven’t posted much about my firing last week because I’ve been struggling with the results.
here’s my math…5 firings x 2 chambers = 10 chambers fired. I’d rate the salt chamber this time in the top two and the wood chamber in the bottom two. I missed reduction in the wood and I’m still troubled by that…I thought it looked right and without it a lot of the work in that chamber is pale and looks underfired. I don’t think that temperature is at fault here…cone 12 was down in most spots. I added bentonite to some of the glazes to make them stick on the raw pots but I don’t think that’s a factor. I feel a bit like I’ve fallen off a horse and I’m reluctant to climb back on. It is discouraging to produce so many mediocre pots. Hard to sell…hard to even look at.
I am excited by several slips in the salt; I’ve been searching for a surface that is more ‘satin’ than orange peel and glass and I think I’ve got a couple now. I’ve always known what I want from the salt…the wood is the challenge that I laid out for myself. I always knew that if wood alone didn’t seem interesting that I’d salt both chambers. I’m not sure if this is the moment to make that change. Rudi thinks I should switch, but he’s an engineer….and I’m an artist. Eventually he’s right, but I usually take a different route to that same conclusion. I’m not sure if that’s creativity or stubborness.
My pottery sits on the edge of Claremont farm in Caroline County, Virginia. This gazebo with it’s bamboo roof will whistle if the wind is right. The gourds add to the magic of this shelter in the middle of the garden.
16 pounds of salt.
20 hour firing.
12 hours of sleep.
I’m happy to report that ol’ #5 went very smoothly. Jay and Rabah took the nighttime shift and once again did an admiral job of coaxing the slow rise that is essential to the care and feeding of my raw fired pots. I had a few fitful hours of sleep and then was joined by Beth and Matt who soldiered on for the rest of the day. It continued to be perfect weather…warm in the sun and 60 in the shade.
The rhythms and pace of the kiln have remained pretty regular, which gives me confidence as I continue to fiddle and tweak it.
(sounds like an English pub: “lets have a pint at the Fiddle and Tweak”)
The bottom of the wood chamber seems much improved. I need to rebuild the collection box between the salt chamber and the chimney. I somehow blew up the big sculpture in the salt chamber!?! That’s been bugging me ever since. I’m staying away today. Feeling pretty brain dead so I’m looking after some household chores, drinking good tea and watching a little football.
I’ll bring you a sneak peek tomorrow. Unloading is Tuesday. Here’s hoping!
Log book: before.
Log book: after.
Miss Ellie Bird, presiding.
Beth and Matt stoking the 2nd chamber.
No time for photos. Ignition is at 9pm. I’ve got 20 – 24 hours of fire to look forward to. I’ll report in tomorrow night. Go Red Sox!
I got a late start today after 2 meetings in the morning at LibertyTown. Didn’t make it out to the studio until mid-afternoon, but I’ve been eager to get underway with loading the kiln and it felt good to make a dent. My title today refers to the weather…when I dreamed of building this kiln in the middle of the woods, this is exactly how I thought it should be. Perfect autumn weather that is supposed to last for days and days. This first photo is the view out of the kiln shed.
Here’s a layer by layer photo series of today’s progress in the wood chamber. I am meticulous and pokey about loading, and I still put too many pots in (I know that they need space, but it’s hard to overcome greed and the habits of packing a gas kiln for 25 years).
It’s really the beginning of the firing, since I start to imagine the flame as it passes over the pots, thinking about where I want that flame to come in closest contact.
The first layer is mostly planters with no glaze inside so I can fire another pot inside. I want to make lids one day and turn them into saggers.
Dr. Seuss’ bird baths – tallest is 4 1/2 “.
As firing #5 approaches I am trying to get a little more focused on kilns and fire. I fired a small gas kiln about twice a month for most of 25 years. I could fill the kiln and be firing in 10 days if I needed to. It takes 2-3 months now to fill this kiln and I feel a little disconnected to firing with such a big gap. Plenty of time to forget whatever I might have learned the last time!
Today I took a little time to make a graph of the last firing. I wanted to see where I might make changes. The left hand column is in degrees F. in 100 degree increments, and the bottom represents each passing hour. It was a 20 hour firing. I want to lengthen the firing 2-4 hours and you can see here where the climb is a bit steep so that’s where I’ll be paying particular attention. The second red line is the salt chamber. So far, I am more satisfied with it’s results than the wood chamber. Lots to learn.
It’s been a while since I’ve made these pitchers and after looking at these photos I’ve decided that the next batch need to have short little necks…I’ve been pushing the long neck for a while and all of a sudden I feel the need to tilt the pendulum in the other direction. And so it goes…
Most of the pots I make are meant for the kitchen or the table, but I’ve also always made time to make pots for flowers and plants. The bottom of my chamber isn’t as ‘juicy’ as the rest and it’s a good place to put these.
I really enjoy slipping and glazing raw pots and that’s how I spent most of this glorious fall day. I plan to throw a bunch of teapot parts tomorrow and spend the rest of the week putting them together. I’ll start loading next Monday. I’d like to be finished by Thursday (I am a rather deliberate loader of kilns) and start the little campfire in the firebox Friday (the 17th) evening. I think Rabah and Jay will do the overnight shift. I’m starting to get excited.
On a beautiful autumn evening, Nathan and Cat were wedded on the farm where my pottery is. Great music and a simple ceremony under the gourd-laden gazebo was followed by a lovely meal of Thai food from Tarntip Restaurant and incredible cupcakes made by Elizabeth. I’m not sure that the photo is sufficient to see that the garnishes are mint leaves…and cayenne peppers. The chocolate ones were laced with mole’ spice!
I ducked out early to hang out with Hollis, who was visiting from Cape Cod for the opening of his show at LibertyTown last Friday. I’ll write a different blog about that. Hollis and I have been working together and talking about pots for a long time. He is writing an article about me for some future publication and we spent some time talking about where I’ve been and where I might be going now with my work. I’ll let you know if it gets published. Hollis wrote feature stories for years, so he ought to be able to make some sense out of my ramblings.