Wowee, six months goes by fast! We've been busy, both on the farm and in the studio. I guess we'll start this post from where we finished with the last one.
Once the kiln was finished, it was time to make some pots! We had no idea how many pots the kiln would hold or how the clays and glazes would turn out. It was a real gamble. We had to decide what kind of forms we had to have in this first firing, from a selling view point and from our own point of view as artists.
Even Dakota came out to the studio to throw some pots for the kiln.
Once harvest was done, it was time to set a deadline. I wanted to fire the kiln before winter really set in. A little snow wouldn't stop us. We needed to split and stack wood, clean and wash kiln shelves and bisque fire and glaze and slip our pots. I hoped we had enough wood and enough pots.
So after two days of splitting wood and three days glazing and slipping the pots, we spent a day and a half loading the kiln. Now we would find out if we had enough pots. We have to wad every pot to keep them from sticking to the shelves with ash and salt. That became tricky as the temperature dropped because the wadding started to freeze.
The firing started at 4 am Saturday and finished twenty four hours later. I had a few hours on my own at the start of the firing to figure a few things out. Get a draft going in the chimney, muck with the pyrometer, see how much wood to stoke with, stuff like that.
We are so lucky to have such supportive friends and family. My mother in law came from Saskatchewan to help with the boys when we were loading the kiln. My mom and dad watched one of the boys and our great friend Andrea watched the other while we fired the kiln. And my best buds Jeff and Jeffrey came and stoked and split wood and sprayed salt right til the very end. It was all very much appreciated. Plus both of the guys are awesome photographers so we have some excellent pictures of the firing.
You know it's been just about two months since we fired the kiln and I'm still digesting and processing the experience. The idea of the wood kiln had been just that, an idea, for so long. But after the last two years dismantling, moving and rebuilding the kiln, finally firing it felt like a real culmination of a lot of things. A finish line. It was but it isn't. Now there is a solid starting line for our future work. We have an idea of what we can get out of the kiln, what works, what doesn't and what we can change. I look at the work from the first firing and the gears start turning about what's next. Very exciting. Plus the guys are wondering when they get to fire the kiln next.
Here's some before and after shots of pots in the kiln and some shots of some of the best to come out of firing numero uno.
I used to be one of the Riverfolk, until I discovered the joys of mud. Working in clay is a lifetime labour of love, unending explorations of one of the planets most mundane offerings, a mix of water and dirt. I was under the illusion that I was finding my way with the electric kiln and M340,my clay of choice, a nice white body that looked good with my favorite glazes. Now we have a wood kiln. We have to change everything. New clay. New finishing. New year. New you.
The new clay we have started with is gritty, rich, almost chocolate brown. It doesn't behave well. I have to play and learn and lose pieces and I get up in arms about that. My time in the studio is "precious", but every piece can't be "my precious". If I don't play and stretch and fail and flop I'll never learn the boundaries of the new clay and the new kiln. This whole endeavor may force me to loosen up and let go. There is no one kind of potter, there are so many different kinds of clays and different firing techniques, there is a pottery for every personality! Maybe an artist doesn't change the clay for the better, it could be the other way around...
Holy smokes I'm a bloggin again! I'm sure one or two people were wondering when that would happen again. Well, it's happening! Hold on tight! Weeee!
Well we are pretty happy that the studio has seen a little action in the last month. The winter months have often slipped away studiowise the last few years, so any work done before spring just means we're ahead of the game. Spurring us along is the idea of the the first firing in the wood kiln. Got to have some pots to fire in it, right?
So I had me a plan see? I had a few loose ends hanging around in the form of a couple orders, for lack of a better word. I needed to throw a few more things in the cone 6 stoneware we've been using for the last 10 years.
Don't get the wrong idea here folks. The throwing took a little while. An hour here and there after the boys go to bed or after the cows get fed. But it starts to add up.
Anyways, I had planned to finish up with our old clays and switch to the new clays we'll be using in the wood kiln (the new clays will tolerate the higher temperatures of the wood kiln). But first I wanted to get our second wheel working again.
We had picked up a used Soldner wheel a couple of years ago when we were still scavenging for bricks. It worked great for a couple of months then gradually died. I thought the problem was in the pedal and after lots of grunting, headscratching, cursing and generally unhelpful tinkering, I finally ordered a new variable transformer for the pedal. Got it for less than half price on ebay. (Pat myself on the shoulder.)
So Dakota and I got busy swapping out the old for the new transformer yesterday. It took a little more mucking around than I had planned but I got there (Dakota got distracted). I hook it back up to the wheel andddd...? Nothing. Fudge. "I believe the problem is in the motor." Thanks Sherlock. Now I'm going to see whether anyone in town can fix a 1/2 hp DC motor or if I have to haul it up to Edmonton. I'm sure it will be cheap. Ugh.
Oh well. I think I will start switching clays anyways. It might be interesting as I haven't thrown with anything different in a long time. Clay can be tricky don'tcha know?
A short while ago we fired the kiln, it has been ages since most of Joe's clay time has been spent working on the wood kiln. I was motivated by a visit from friends and relatives and friends who are relatives wanting to see and purchase new work that I was nimmer-nammering about earlier in the summer. The work was finished and it was good!!! I am a slow learner but I am finally doing more planning and less seat-pants flying, subsequently I end up with more success out of the kiln. I have plans for the fall, I plan to spread the joy of clay to youngin's in the community (whether they like it or not!) and send my work out into the world beyond the four walls of the barn. I have also attempted a new item, the "yarn bowl" I am told knitters go knuts for the things and a snappy yarn shop in Calgary wants to order some for Christmas.
The new work was some of the most beautiful I have ever made and many pieces already found new homes (I barely got to know them).