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Saturday, 31 May 2014

.....the firing as performance

....so, the kiln was ready and the pots, dry and wet alike, were taken over for the big pack. The back section was packed through the 2 side doors and the rest through the front. I did say wet, and I mean it. A couple of the bigger pots got knocked on the way in and were carefully molded and repaired once in place.
This image shows the back section, just behind the side arches, under the hump of the 'whale' kiln. In front of this stack went 3 large jars, then 2 more stacks before the firebox. Packing took 2 days.
This image is the view from the front stoke hole - Scott Parady's large jar resting on Ray cavill's prawn bowl (for people who really like prawns!). 2am the kiln was lit with a very gentle flame, curling into the chamber through the grate holes. This was maintained for the next day and night to try and dry everything out. The kiln was steaming, but hard to tell what was pot water and what from the cow dung.
The firing schedule was very different from mine - a slow rise in lightish reduction/neutral atmosphere till cone 8's were going. At this stage it became apparent that something bad was happening with the floor or props as the front stack began to teeter and lean forwards. Cone 8's went at the front sidestoke and sidestoking began, bringing the temperature up slowly throughout the kiln.
After around 24 hours at stoneware temps the front stack collapsed into itself and the stoking space behind it. Emergency caesarian was carried out to free up the stoking space, pots being removed with raku tongs. Some of these were rather good with a surprising build up of ash on their surfaces......ash and....salt! Yep, looked like a salt firing. It seemed that perhaps the wood that had grown at the site, being next to the sea and a large saltwater lake, had high sodium levels.

Day 5 was spent overstoking and building up large ember beds in all areas of the kiln - constant heavy reduction. Finally, spectacularly, sacks of charcoal were funneled into the whale's hump and back of the kiln. The temp in the kiln had dropped somewhat by now but the temp at the bottom of the chimney was crackling white - maybe cone 14 - 15.
3 days and some early brick removal later and the kiln was opened.
Amazingly, for a performance piece, with untested clays and slips, glazes, wood and kiln, there were some rather beautiful pieces in the firing. Even a few survivors from the collapsed front stack. Further back it became an almost unrelenting expression of grey, but even here the sidestoke areas yielded some interesting results. Did it make me want to explore reduced cooling? No....but there were some packing and firing techniques that I'm sure will find a way into my firings in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, seriously gnarly stuff! Are you going to put up some pics of the results please?