Sunday, June 21, 2009

Unpacking the wood fired kiln...and sorting it all out!

There is a well known brand of American manufactured kiln that used to advertise its product by placing three handsome potters in front of the open door of a gas kiln. The handsome potters all look smug, as well they might, because..., inside the kiln, on immaculate un-grotty kiln shelves, on whose pristine surfaces no glaze has angrily spat, dripped or run, are arrayed dozens of pots, all copper red, in precisely the same shade and same level of gloss. "A perfect firing... every time!" is emblazoned in text and implied with the image. Well folks, real life with a wood fired kiln is altogether far more exciting, my copper reds are different on every shelf, and..., sometimes they are green as well! Maybe if I were handsome and botoxed my results would be different, but.. that would be slightly boring, now wouldn't it!

We unpacked the kiln this afternoon. I had fired to a slightly lower temperature than the last time, as I had over fired some of the previous work. This time a small proportion was under fired, but most was acceptable, and some was really good.

We had achieved better reduction in this firing than in the previous. Firing at night may have helped, as the various colours of the chimney flame were most useful indicators of what was going on in the chamber. Most of the copper reds went red, with only the odd miscreant stubbornly staying green!

I haven't done a count up of the number of pieces that went in the kiln, but a friend who came to see the kiln opening thought there were something like 180 items. I have now got to sort them out and select a goodly quantity to go in an exhibition that opens tomorrow evening.... talk about meeting deadlines with little time to spare!

Unfortunately it is evening here and our lighting is rather poor so photographing the results of the firing is not easy, but I have included some general impressions of some of the work.

These two small bowls have chun glaze over an iron brown one.

This copper red bowl has a simple magnesium matt glaze on the outside and around the rim (one third Nephaline Syenite, one third dolomite, one third ball clay).

I sometimes am tempted to leave handles off jugs when I am making them, I find the handle-less form interesting. I finally took the plunge and left a couple without handles. I suppose someone could use them for flowers.

I thought it would be interesting to pour the glaze on the outside with big gaps of the clay left unadorned, except by the toasting action of the flames.

This copper glazed bowl has scarlet, pink and green. It is an interesting indication of what the atmosphere was like in that part of the kiln, and I like the bowl's gentle and unassuming nature!
I've left my favorite copper red pot until last. This little pot has lovely red and clear areas in its glaze all around it. No side is alike, and I am pleased with the way the red gives emphasis to the throwing rings.

The shino glazes came out well again in this firing, and I have a couple of shino glazed jugs and some small bowls that I am very pleased with.

Some of the copper reds were under fired, and I will be able to put them in my next stoneware firing and give them another try.

It was useful to have fired a little lower this time as it gives me a good indication of the range of temperatures that suit the glazes I use, and tells me more about the heat distribution within the kiln. In past firings, there was a tendency to fire to the point where all cones went down, and it was hard to really judge just how much hotter the hottest parts of the kiln were.... now I am closer to knowing!

If any of my readers happen to be in Dunedin over the coming week, please do drop into the exhibition. I will be demonstrating from 11am until 2pm on Thursday and Friday. The exhibition is at the Community Gallery, Princes Street, Dunedin, and will be open from 10am until 5pm daily. The exhibition, "4 Men's Media", runs from June 22 until June 28 and is sponsored by Gallery on Blueskin. Other artists taking part are: Justin Morshuis, Jack Monaghan, and Mike Bowden. The show will feature paintings and sculpture, and my pots.


Kitty Shepherd said...

It looks like a really good firing; I would love one of those bowls. I think you are a pioneer potter too, I once met Michael Cardew at Winchcombe, and it was the most amazing moment that nearly went wrong. He was completely magical and like a wizard in one moment he was there and the next gone, he played his recorder. I will post about it one day, it is a good story that I had forgotten about until now.

Peter said...

Hi Kitty,
Is it really 2.11 am in Spain? You are lucky having met Michael Cardew. Amazingly there are a couple that live near here that met up with him in Africa many years ago and have a lovely collection of traditional African pots. I had the great joy of having a few hours fondling their collection a year or two ago. Just magical!

If you really would like one of the bowls, we can attempt to send one to you. Still not sure about this posting overseas thing, but it is a skill that I will have to learn in order to survive (splendid isolation is all very well, but there aren't enough people here to really keep body and soul together as a potter..., especially one of the wood fired variety)! I really must organize a simple web page with photos of my work and sizes and prices, etc.

Peter said...

Just checked the time in Spain, it's 11.31am on Sunday. Much better, I was worried about you working late into the night! I really don't understand the time that Google add to the blog postings. Google time is probably arrived at in a hermetically sealed bunker somewhere that is full of strange whirring technical gizmos manned by pale young things of 10 years old wearing laboratory coats

Judy Shreve said...

Peter - it looks like a brilliant firing! Those copper reds are luscious. Good luck with your exhibition -- you didn't leave yourself much time for the sorting - ha!

Arkansas Patti said...

I am always amazed at what comes out of the kiln compared to what went in. Being a non potter, this is just short of magic to me.
Wonderful results.
I know your exhibition will go beautifully. Sorry but I won't be in the neighborhood.
I loved your comment yesterday so much that I made it part of my post today. You are as adept with words as you are with clay. Thanks Peter.

Linda Starr said...

Oh Peter, once again you have some wonderful pots. The copper reds are lucious, some have a creamy look and others more of a magenta tone. I really both handleless jugs especially the multi-colored one, very nice indeed. You favorite jar is a gem.

I see so many other wonderful looking pots in your load, you are truly amazing in your firings.

I was laughing so at your description of the botoxed potters in front of the copper red filled kiln. Good luck getting organized for your show.

Peter said...

Hi Judy, Patti, and Linda, thanks for your continuing encouragement and support, I really do appreciate it, and often wish there wasn't quite so much ocean between us. Thanks for putting my comment on your blog Patti, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and really nice of you to feature it like that.

Whew, it has been a busy day. We got home from Dunedin just before 9pm with some left over sandwiches and sausage rolls that were left over from the opening of the exhibition, and Laura is falling asleep in the chair. The morning was spent pricing and packing pots, well over 100 of them, to take to the exhibition. Afternoon was setting things up, and evening... the opening.

The exhibition looks good from the street, and, with a mixture of paintings, sculpture, and my pots, there is a lot for people to look at when they get brave enough to enter the gallery door. I met some really nice people at the opening, some who are studying at the University here, and some lovely friends bought pots and bowls. I think there will be more sales in the week, but always hard to judge. My work completely filled three tables that were joined end to end and measured a total of 9 metres in length. I kept thinking, "how many people did all this??"

I took the camera with me to the exhibition, but foolishly forgot to take any pictures, so will try to do some later in the week (on Thursday and Friday) when I go in to demonstrate how I make pots on the wheel.

Kitty Shepherd said...

Postage is a tricky one, it would have to go to UK I think. Planning a NZ trip for next year so maybe I should just come and pick it up!

Becky said...

Peter! Congratulations! The results are simply gorgeous! I love the way you write; you're as gifted a story-teller as you are an artist! May your sales be many!

Peter said...

Hi Kitty,
Postage... drives me nuts, but it would be so much fun if you were able to visit and deal with postage that way! Do please include us on your itinerary!

Hi Becky, thanks so much for that. I must admit that I would probably be just as happy writing as getting my hands in the mud.., but, in a different sort of a way. Working with clay on the wheel, when it is going right, can be pleasurable in a similar way to a satisfying yawn and stretch (I mean that in a really positive way). It is an expression of living, of tactile self, of humanity, of service and kindness too. Working with words and music, deals with the vulnerable soul. It can bring happiness like a dancing Mayfly over water, and move one to tears. Maybe I need to play with mud in order to have anything to write about!!?

Goodness, did I just say all that! It is rather early in the morning (having had a rather restless night), and the gray cells have not gained all their daily inhibitions!

Pat - Arkansas said...

What a wonderful collection of gorgeous pieces! I'm having a hard time with the 10th commandment (thou shalt not covet)when I look at them.

I'm late getting around to commenting, as I have been truly "laid low" with something influenza-like since Sunday afternoon (it's now Wednesday here.) Did your comment on my H14 hybrid lily (H1N1) have an influence on the influenza? LOL

I see you have yet another post with lots of photos. I'm popping over there immediately.