|Fully loaded kiln before bricking up the doorway for the firing.|
I was actually quite surprised that there weren't great clouds of steam escaping from every nook and cranny as the firing went on, in fact the old dragon was rather well behaved and climbed steadily to cone 10 in ten hours without protest or sulks!
|After the firing, new shiny glazed pots!|
Unpacking the kiln 3 days later revealed a goodish result over all, not the best firing I have ever done, but certainly not the worst! I had some nice ash glazes and iron red, but the copper reds were not good.
|Saturated iron glaze with ash glaze splashes over it.|
There is always something to learn from firing the kiln, and "bad" firings are often the most instructive of teachers as they do show where the boundaries lie between success and a poor result.
I have been peering at the graph of this firing and comparing it with the very good one I did in March 2018, and I can see that they are quite different regarding rate of climb, time spent above 1200 degrees, when I fired the kiln in reduction and so on. There are definitely things to keep in mind when I fire again!
Prior to glazing work for this firing, I went through my usual day of indecision and gloom as I thought about the work, and what glazes to put on them, and about the glazes I already am familiar with, and the tests that I wish I had done that I had not done regarding what glaze "A" will do when put over glaze "C" or "D". I felt very dissatisfied and frustrated, and the frustration was not just about technical matters, it was a much deeper one. I felt like I had lost touch with the glazes that were really "me", that really excited me, and expressed who I am.
In the midst of some hours of increasing introspection, I went in search of glaze tests that I did more than 10 years ago, the glazes were ash glazes. At that time I had done many tests of simple glazes made with wood ash, clay, silica, and feldspar as a result of being inspired by a book by Phil Rogers, called "Ash Glazes". When I was testing such things, I had not yet built my wood fired stoneware kiln, so I fired the tests in the electric kiln. Some of the tests did yield nice glazes that I later did use in the electric kiln, but... from what I know now, most of the glazes would have been far better in the wood fired kiln where they could have taken advantage of a reduction atmosphere.
Once my wood fired kiln was made, I really didn't explore the ash glaze thing much further.. life got in the way.. and my tests sat in a box gathering dust for a decade!
It was good to rediscover them, picking up the glaze tests and peering at them gently lifted me from my gloom, and I started to feel genuinely interested in trying them with some of my new work.
I made up a white Nuka-style* glaze (test A27 above), and some other ash glazes, and applied them to several pots to see what would happen.
|White Nuka-style glaze over speckled ash glaze.|
|Nuka-style glaze over speckled ash over Shino glaze!|
|Wood ash 40, soda feldspar 40, red earthenware clay 20.|
Whilst the results might seem a bit "quiet" for people with a taste for vivid colours, the earthy greens, red-browns, and lovely flowing icy white of the Nuka glaze, really spoke to me. The thing about ash glazes is that they are so much more than colour, they have texture as well, from smooth and flowing, to dry and stiff. The glaze is often attractively crazed as wood ashes contain a lot of alkaline fluxes that have a high expansion such as potassium, sodium and calcium. There is also an unpredictability to ash glazes, especially if the ash is unwashed, as different trees and plants have a very different chemical makeup, and will give a unique result when used as part of a glaze.
Some potters became connoisseurs of ash from plants in their local areas. I once had the pleasure of holding an ash glazed pot by the English potter, Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie (1895 - 1985), who had been a great pioneer and enthusiast in the use of ash in glazes. The pot was quite humble and unassuming in form, and had a lovely satin surface rather like that of a smooth stone that had been picked up out of a river. I was delighted to find this quote just now when writing about this, as it so rightly sums up the character of the pot that I held. "I want my pots to make people think, not of the Chinese, but of things like pebbles and shells and birds' eggs and the stones over which moss grows. Flowers stand out of them more pleasantly, so it seems to me. And that seems to matter most." Pleydell-Bouverie
*Nuka glaze cone 8 -10 reduction
This type of glaze was traditionally made with rice straw ash, which is mostly silica.
Not a lot of rice straw to be found around here in the South of the South Island of New Zealand, so this is my simple substitute which yields something that looks a bit like a nuka glaze, but uses fire wood ash.
40 unwashed wood ash (sieved dry through an 80 mesh sieve)
30 potash feldspar
Good starting point for a wood ash glaze cone 9 or 10 reduction
As you can see there are many variations possible within this simple 40,40,20 ratio of ingredients.
40 wood ash (can be unwashed or washed)
40 feldspar (can be potash, soda, or Cornish stone, Nepheline Syenite)
20 clay (can be red earthenware, local clay, china clay or ball clay)
Speckled Wood ash glaze for cone 10 reduction
50 wood ash (washed or unwashed. Fine or coarse sieves for different speckles)
50 clay (china clay, ball clay or mixture of the two)
Here are photos of the 3 ash glaze pots that I have shown close up details of above. Each one is about 7 inches (180mm) tall. I will post other photos of work from this firing in a separate blog post in the next few days.