Friday, April 13, 2012

Help, my kiln has exploded.... ! Getting away from it all....

I was tempted to post this photo with the caption... "Help, my kiln has exploded...!"  and then bask in the wave of concerned and sympathetic comments!  (I like that photo caption so much, I've just decided to use it as the title for the post....  Naughty of me I know, but this magnificent distortion of fact is how many magazines sell copies!).

The truth is that I am in the midst of a reconstruction of the mysterious innards of my wood fired kiln, converting it from a kiln that had the fire box under the kiln chamber, to one that has an external firebox.

The reason is that I have been making much larger pots, and they really need to sit on something more solid than very elderly second-hand kiln shelves.  So, I pulled the shelves and the firebox out of the kiln, and have put in a strong floor for the chamber (don't ask me how many bricks, both heavy and insulating, went into the building of it....!.

This is the second major reconfiguration of this kiln.  The kiln started life with two parallel fireboxes, and lots of small kiln shelves.  Then, when I found a supply of larger second-hand shelves, I changed it to one firebox.

The kiln as it was in 2007 with two parallel fire boxes.  My father stoking.
Access to the fireboxes and the kiln chamber from the same side worked OK when the fireboxes were under the chamber, but it will make things more of a hassle now with an external firebox, because it will get in the way of loading and unloading the kiln.  I will probably have to arrange a way of partially dismantling part of the firebox in order to allow better access to the kiln, but I am working on that.

Another possible hassle is that the chamber roof curves the "wrong" way in relation to the flow of flame through the kiln.  I am not too worried about that one, in fact this makes the kiln almost a distant cousin to American "Ground Hog" kilns.  I will just have to pack the kiln carefully to ensure a reasonable distribution of heat.

A truly sensible and well organised person would draw up tidy plans and sort out the kiln redesign on paper before hauling out heavy fire bricks.  I can, and do, spend a long time planning things...., but I am not all that sensible... and the risk I run is that the planning becomes an end in itself...., there are just so many options when one can draw lines and hit the back button!  So I am making these changes with real bricks, and real sweat, and pushing things around in the real world until they seem right. I do end up pulling things down again the next day after a better solution to a problem offered itself in the night, but I am making progress over all.

Due to work, having a gallery, cats, and deadlines, Laura and I almost never manage to stay a night away.  I guess that some people would look enviously at us and say that we shouldn't ever need a holiday, because we make pots and paint and are doing "something we love"....

Rhonda and Mark came to our rescue last weekend by letting us stay in their house truck for a night at their place.  We all live in the same village, but they are much closer to the sea then us, and it was easy to feel like we were away on holiday, even if we were only a 25 minute easy walk from home.

We arrived about 3 in the afternoon, after a shortened day potting (for me).  We had a hilarious evening of karaoke, and I discovered (to my surprise) that I could do some Bob Dylan numbers, and substitute the kazoo for the harmonica at the appropriate times.

The house truck was delightful, very much like being on a little boat.  It is lovely inside, and I always admire the clever use of space and colour that makes it feel roomy and inviting.  Our only trouble was that we did have a wakeful patch in the wee small hours of the night, because it was so quiet.  More than 2 decades of living beside a Main Road, has made us need the sound of passing vehicles to lullaby us to sleep!

Next morning I walked back to our place, fed the cats, then walked back to Mark and Rhonda's, in time for breakfast.  I should have taken photos as I walked, because the early morning light over the lagoon was lovely.

After breakfast, we had a walk to the beach, where we watched the race horses exercising, and we jumped on seaweed (the sort that makes a satisfying "pop" when you land on it). Laura and I both drew faces on the sand.... her one turned out really well.

We returned to our place just before 11 in the morning, but it was a most welcome mini holiday being able to stay somewhere different for a night, and we are most thankful to our kind friends for looking after us like that.

"Sometimes a man needs a bit of peace and quiet",
well, that is what Ginger thinks.  The trouble is that most of his most private retreats have been discovered by Nigella Stopit.  Whenever she finds one of his hide away places, he has to discover another one, preferably one that is too difficult for her to get to.

Recently Ginger decided that the roof of the covered area at the back of our main building was the place to quietly sunbathe and sleep.  He was very pleased with himself, and his face registered some priceless expressions of deep bliss.  I thought he looked funny, because he was on an area of clear acrylic roofing, and you could see rather a lot of him.... in fact, rather more than was desirable!!

As I went in search of the camera, Nigella sensed where Ginger was, and climbed up to join him.

Ginger was rather put out by this, and eventually made a very daring leap across five and a half feet of empty space to get away from her.  If you have ever dropped a 5 kilogramme sledge hammer on a sheet of roofing iron, you will know what the impact of Ginger alighting on my shed roof sounded like.  Ginger is a big cat!  After the roof popped back into shape, Ginger proudly trotted up to the ridge and made himself comfortable in a pool of sunshine, close to the nodding heads of the sunflowers.

For the time being Ginger had found a place that was too difficult for little Nigella Stopit to get to... she did think about it, but did not dare make the leap.

There was one slight problem...

No way down!

Not without assistance...

Help came when requested two hours later when the sun was no longer nice and warm.


gz said...

It will be interesting to se how the kiln fires without as much pre-warming effect of the kiln on the firebox. Looks like you've been having fun! No wonder you needed a break!
Love the "Vettriano" moment on the beach- lovely picture and so fortunate to have a spot like that so near.

Ginger's troubles---he he!!

Peter said...

Hi Gwynneth,
Good to hear from you. It will be interesting regarding the firebox, and I'll probably keep on tweaking it after a test firing or two. I was fairly tempted to try a down draft Bourry box approach, but I fear that it would make access to the kiln even worse than a more simple firebox. I wasn't too sure what a "Vettriano" moment was... but, thanks to Google, I now know (I think!!) although umbrellas on our beach could only come out occasionally due to the risk of being blown away!
Ahh Ginger, it is an ongoing drama!

cookingwithgas said...

why- because we have to.
Changing things in the nature of the beast. I hope the firing(s) goes (go) well.
Lovely holiday and that picture of cat with sunflower- sweet!

smartcat said...

Much more interesting to do in real time/life. Do you think it has something to do with working in 3D?

And oh the ways our furrys find to tease each other!

Peter said...

Hi Meredith,
Kiln building, change, and the human condition.... deep stuff at this hour of the morning! I'm off to make another dozen changes to the firebox! Darn it, I thought of another improvement in the night, that does mean a bit of "unbuilding" of what went in yesterday...

Hi Smartcat,
"Interesting" and better for the muscle development! (I am certainly enjoying working outside too). I think you are right regarding the working in 3D. I guess that some of what is going on this time is me having to face the realities of using recycled materials to modify an existing structure, some old bricks stack together better than others, and that can only be discovered hands on!

Armelle said...

I really was so sorry for you, before reading the entire post, yesterday afternoon making pots and thinking of my distant friends :-)
Nice to see you are rebuilding your kiln, phew !!!
Nice to see you had somme holidays, we have the chance to have a daughter at home and she takes care of the cat and the dog when we go away.
Nice phot of the cats I love the last one, with "le grand tournesol".
Best wishes to you all

Arkansas Patti said...

Yikes, that looks like back breaking work Peter.
I just love the taunting of the two cats. So glad for now, Ginger has won. They have to be fun to watch.

thomas said...

Nice newly designed kiln,
at first i thought it really exploded.

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle,
and apologies..., I am sorry that you had an afternoon of anxiety thinking that my kiln actually had exploded! You have fallen victim to my sense of humour!

I love the "le grand tournesol", such a magnificent and appropriate name for a sunflower; I will bring my sunflowers salutations in French this morning when I greet them, I am sure that they will be impressed.

It is good that your daughter is able to take care of the cat and dog whilst you are away, that certainly makes things much easier.

Nigella Stopit sends you great purrs this morning, she is warming up in front of the electric heater!

Hi Patti,
There have been times when I have been noticeably stooped this week as I stagger in from another few hours of kiln surgery.... I am longing for the moment when there is a happy puff of smoke from the chimney and the chuckle of a good fire in the grate!

Ginger and Nigella, it is a real life drama, and always one or the other is in the ascendancy!

Hi Thomas,
Good to hear from you. Hopefully I will get the kiln firing again this week, and it will be good to see if the new firebox does what it should! I notice that there is something strange when I use your name as a link, we go to "chimneys of malaysia". Not sure if your name has been hijacked somehow???

Linda Starr said...

Help, help, the sky is falling, so glad you two got a holiday, even living in paradise one needs to get away to clear and freshen the mind.

Angie said...

So glad you had a little time away from the stress of your kiln ...which I am sure will be wonderful.
I love your shots of the cats.
Sorry i've not been around but my computer is sick and I am borowing a lap top for now ...and its not the same lol

Peter said...

Hi Linda,
Sometimes I think the sky is falling!
One evening a few years ago, we had been discussing some of the old beliefs about the shape and size of the universe and how the stars were little windows into heaven. When we walked outside, and it was a beautiful clear night with no streetlights to spoil things, we saw a meteorite whoosh across the sky, it was quite a moment!
So..., maybe the sky is falling after all!

Hello Angie, it is always good to hear from you, borrowed laptop or by smoke signals, it doesn't matter! Anyway, you're far better at keeping in touch than me. Hope your sick computer makes a full recovery soon and that it is nothing too serious. xx