25 February 2012

Firing 23

No wonder I was twitchy, it’s 5 months since the last firing. According to the weather forecasts I shouldn’t have been able to do this one either. However a kick into action from the angels earlier in the week in and I managed to coordinate being ready for the only decent day we have had in weeks (months to be honest, though it feels like years, but this is NOT a ‘moan-about-the-weather’ post)

I’ve been putting myself under pressure to make pots ready for a firing here and for the Higham Anagama in April. The calendar is filling up with Potfests and galleries wanting work. I knew I would have to be ready to fire at short notice if the weather looked promising. It takes a day to pack the kiln, carrying glazed pots from the studio, wadding them, placing them, taking them out again, rearranging them to squeeze another one in or to get a better flow of flame around them. Too much wind and rain on this day makes it very unpleasant to pack. So really I like two good days in a row.

This time I had a potter friend from Aberdeen (Sjarifah Roberts) to help carry and pass stuff which was a great help although she couldn’t stay for the firing. She’s wanting to build a kiln herself and it’s SO much easier to understand all the variables of kiln design when you are actually standing in front of one. The books are great but nothing beats getting involved with someone else's build or firing.

The usual start at 5am to put the gas on low. I had given the kiln 4 hours of drying the evening before, even so it continued to steam like a sauna for the entire firing. I was concerned that the wood might be damp too from months of high humidity.
The morning was dry but overcast with a breeze from the west which continued for most of the day with a few showers and quite a bit of sunshine.
Firing followed it’s usual pattern at first although I kept the gas going for an extra 2 hours after introducing the first wood at 8am.
Normally I get reduction happening at 900ºc after 8 hours. This time it was at 1000ºC, perhaps the wind in the west was increasing the draft, it certainly takes the smoke away from the shed  very effectively. Generally it was a more oxidising firing with a low bed of embers which I only had to scrape out once.

Another potter friend (Robyn McGraw) arrived at 1pm and helped with the stoking for a few hours while I drove around the village looking for the dog who isn’t impressed with the kiln and prefers to hunt for bird food scraps that the neighbours leave out (and he steals my wood). The first soda went in after 10 hours at about 1150ºC. then two more lots during the next hour. About ? g in total.
Robin had to leave at 4pm so missed 1200ºC at which point there was an almighty downpour and i lost temperature which stalled the kiln at about 1160º. It was a long slow climb back to 1220, achieved by closing the shed doors and feeding one small piece of wood at a time for for the next 3 hours. Because the kiln is built mostly of HTI bricks it has a low mass and doesn’t hold its temperature for long. It was raining more by now and blowing from the south west into the fire box. Exhausting but satisfying finally to achieve 1220º for a while and see cone 9 going down.

4 February 2012

Last of the earthenware

Time to write something but not a lot has happened and there are no deadlines looming. Which is probably why I am feeling relaxed and easy in the workshop. That and the weather which has finally, after 3 months of storms and rain and gales, calmed down. We've had bright sunny and days for almost a week and it's nice to be able to take such pleasure in rather ordinary conditions.

After bringing a lot of pots into the house to dry off I was able to get a bisque firing done. Today I glazed a set of earthenware plates, a commission from last year which was taking so long to dry that I tried to force dry it which warped the pieces so I had to remake them and then wait for them to dry again. Tomorrow I paint them with cobalt and get them in the kiln along with a few slip cast bowls. I was making a lot of this for about 12 years, it supplied the local tourist market. Last year I sold the lovely stainless steel blunger, which paid for my flight to Philadelphia and released me from the tyranny of continuing to make them. They were a good product, and one of only a few locally made Gaelic gift items on the island, but 12 years of hand painting Brochan Lom (the porridge song) is more than enough for anyone. I don't know much Gaelic but I know that song backwards.
I've been wanting to make this decision for a few years. Space was an issue in the workshop and with the blunger gone I now have an area for red clay work and a pug mill. The downside is fewer firings and a colder workshop. So here's a picture of my last earthenware ready for cobalt and into the kiln.

I find that I am planning the next wood firing in my mind. If this fine weather continues there will also be a rakuing a doing.

1 February 2012

First bisque of the year

Finally I've got a bisque firing going. The first for 3 months. Eventually I gave up hoping the weather would improve and took pots into the house to dry them off. Non Potter Partner is away so it's only me who has to put up with every surface covered in green ware.
Of course now that I have the kiln on the weather is gorgeous, cold and dry with the wind in the north and snow on the hills. Only 8 centigrade in the workshop but feels like summer with the sun streaming in the windows.