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Monday, 2 September 2013

Second time lucky

Despite no blog postings, it has been a busy summer. I made a variety of test pieces from ideas of form and glaze that I have been developing over the last few months, mostly concerned with how best to illustrate the qualities that I am getting from the rocks that I am using. After the disappointing maiden firing of the new small kiln I was reluctant to post anything until I knew the results - partly just going with the flow of concentrated effort and partly superstition.
By mid August everything was made (and often broken up and remade), the wood was good and dry....
...rocks were crushed and milled and blended. I packed the little kiln last weekend and started the firing on Wednesday morning at 7.45am.
This time I was much more gentle with the move from hearth to hobs and managed to escape the cracking that occurred last time. It is only a short kiln so the distance between the initial fire and stack is not great.
Once the fire was fully inside the temperature really wanted to shoot up so I took it very slowly over the last 100 degrees to 1000C. I took a look at the weather vane and the wind had changed direction - blowing directly into the village! Dammit! Gritting my teeth I started heavy reduction but to my amazement, as the kiln is short, the chimney had heated up well in that last soak + with the air being drawn in through the passive damper in the chimney base, there was very little smoke. It wasn't very long before flame was shooting out of the top of the chimney. No matter how hard I stoked the blowhole failed to show any flame so I blocked it off + had to rely on the flame (and view inside the chamber) to assess reduction.
The rest of the firing seemed to go well - taking 19 1/2 hours in total to reach cone 12 almost down. A nice clean clam up, no late reduction, and I left it to cool.
By Sunday morning the temp was around 60C so, heart in mouth, opened up.
It was a test firing and at laest half of the pieces that I made did not survive the firing process or the unpacking, however....I got some real stunners out.
This is one of the best - glaze from Galloway rocks
There was a fair temperature variation in the kiln, but this is something that I can exploit. The top shelf didn't get that much ash but for a 19 hour firing I managed to get some wonderful rich surfaces.
This is based on igneous rock from the Malvern Hills - the oldest rock in England.