23 November 2009

Introduction to the kiln

I’ve had a growing interest in wood fired ceramics for a few years now but always assumed I would never be doing it myself. I live on an island off the west coast of Scotland – unpredictable weather, at its worst wet, windy, dark and cold. Not the best conditions for those 3 or 5 day anagama firings I had read about. It was Mr Top Pot Supplies at Potfest Scotland who dismissed my assumptions. His eyes lit up at the mention of the conditions ‘fast firing then’ he said.

Briefly, from the beginning –

I first encountered this type of kiln, whilst on holiday in the Czech Republic. My friend took me to visit some potters she knows near Cesky Krumlov who thought I might be interested in their new wood firing kiln, which they were building. Thinking this would be taking several days we didn’t hurry to get there and when we did we found the kindling already in the fire box. The kiln itself is small, footprint is 10 HTI bricks x 3 (exact measurements to follow), can be built in a day with no mortar, fires in day, cools down in a day and is generally an easy, uncomplicated entry into the wonderful world of wood firing.

We learnt that the kiln had been bought from a potter near Prague who puts together kits of the constituent parts. A package that doesn’t require too much thought. I had been rather daunted by all the books about kilns so this seemed perfect. Of course now it’s built it seems so simple and straight forward and I’m sure anyone with an interest could plan and build one with very little trouble.
We went to visit Pan Krajek (with translating friend) who explained about the kiln and apologised for not having one available as he thought he had sold as many as he could to all the potters in Bohemia. It took two more visits to collect all the parts due to the weight of bricks and the state of some of the roads and drive them back to where we stayed in Krumlov. Half of them came home with us and spent 6 months in the garden shed before we could collect the rest in May 2009.

Maintenance Man got to work and built a shelter in the garden for the kiln which in any other climate would have been a pergola but we’re on the Isle of Skye, on a hill, facing south west, the first to greet every weather system which comes across the Atlantic. The shelter is open to the north and east but protected by the hill which rises behind it, the south and west protected by a construction of corrugated plastic and plywood doors and the garden shed. It is roofed with corrugated iron, a hole cut for the chimney with an old barbeque hood to collect the smoke (some of it anyway, depending on wind direction).

The pictures here are of the kiln we saw in Cesky Krumlov. I’ll post images of the one we built in the next blog.

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