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Oops. I mean to do this more often. If for no other reason than my own memory is short and it's nice to look back.

So we spent February, March and half of April making pots for firing #2. Auvery was trying out a couple of new forms and some heavy slip decorating.

I was trying to throw some big pots using a mix of coil and throw and sectional throwing techniques. I'm starting to figure out what works and what doesn't, for me anyways. 

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We set a firing date for the end of April because after that the farm demands a lot more attention with spring seeding. So we made pots and made more pots. Gotta have enough right?

We also had to mix and sieve glazes, mix up some wadding and clean and wash kiln shelves. Ugh. I think I spent 3 days and went through a dozen grinding wheels cleaning off the kiln shelves from firing #1. Not a lot of fun.

We also had to cut a split wood. I recruited some friends to help me split wood the weekend before the firing. So it decided to snow. But we soldiered on.

Our buddy Patrick made this awesome video of our adventures that day. Check it out!

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By the next weekend the snow was gone for firing #2. It was 25 hours long this time around. It was a little more difficult this time with the wind blowing and gusting hard for the last half of the firing, bringing a little bit of rain and sleet with it. We also had some issues with back pressure at the firebox around 1800 degrees F. After stressing and futzing around for an hour, Jeffrey and his superphone research saved the day.
Firing #2 wasn't as successful as #1 as there were some cool spots in the kiln, a result from ember and ash build up in the firebox. And using less salt affected the final results. But lessons have been learned and strategies put in place for #3. And there were quite a few beautiful pots in this kiln, more than enough to keep us motivated. Our good friends Jeffrey and Tanjia Heyden-Kaye came out and took pictures of a few of the winners.

Two days after the firing we were off to Calgary to drop off a couple pots that were juried into the Alberta Potters Association show "Off Centre" at Webster Galleries. It is a beautiful two story space and we were quite excited to be a part of the show. The show was being held in conjunction with the APA Off Centre symposium the next weekend. Unfortunately we weren't able to get there because as soon as we got home from dropping of the pots at the gallery, we unloaded the kiln (with mixed emotions), and the next day it was straight to long days in the field. I wasn't able to really digest and look at the results of the firing for a couple of weeks. Like I said earlier, I now have an idea of what we will do differently next time. But for now the pots are cleaned and organized and thoughts for the next round of making are percolating. Its time to fit in some throwing around the busy summer jobs and activities.
 
 
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. 
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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.
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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.

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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.
 
 
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Finally! I'd set myself a goal of being finished laying brick before the end of the month and the start of haying. Done!
Thank goodness for pictures. I've had to refer to the pics of the disassembly to remind me how to put it back together. Then I looked at the dates on those photos. June 23, 2010 Auvery and I and our great friend Jeff started tossing bricks off a roof and into a stock trailer. It took five trips up to Gibbons to bring everything back and only two more years to clean it all up and put it back together. Crazy!
Here's a little slideshow showing the process.

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I'm so glad to be done scraping bricks. I don't know how many bricks there were (if anyone wants to figure it out using the pictures, please let me know what you figure out) but that knife is considerably shorter than when I started.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the kiln is done. I still have to do some iron work for the lid but it's pretty much done. Now when I go to the studio I can start to think about pots again. Weird.
I'll finish with some random brick pics.

Signed,
The farmer with a kiln

 
 
So during my last minutes in the studio before the craziness of spring seeding, I decided I wanted to throw some big pots. At least bigger than I normally make. With the wood kiln I feel like I have the space for some bigger pieces. Only the clay wasn't doing what I wanted it to. (Stomp my feet and kick some dirt.) I'm still figuring out how much clay goes how far, so when I get to the top of a pot, I may have too much or probably too little clay left to finish how I want. Not a big problem but frustrating.
Here's a little video showing some off the process. It doesn't show the whole pot start to finish because it takes about an hour  and I throw pretty slow. This is the "exciting" part.
Here's the pot that I ended up with. I had to add a little more at the top for the neck. I thought turned out pretty good.





Here's some other pots done in two or three pieces. Some work better than others but I'm learnin'.
 
 
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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.
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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?
 
 
Well it looks like winter is just about here. A couple small skiffs of snow and a drop in temperature tell me it's time to get some work done in the studio.
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The kiln November 10, 2011
Where did we last leave off? Oh yes, I was working on the kiln. Still. A long process I know but it looks more like a real kiln all the time. The metal frame needed a little welding before being assembled.

The arch was cast, the fire box was started, the stoking door was hung. I was able to reuse the cast arch over the door. I got far enough along that I was able to place the old castable roof on top of the firebox. It came apart in a few pieces, but with a little help I think I can get them to fit a little tighter and probably do a light skim coat of new castable on the top in the spring.
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But it's too cold to lay brick now. I'm not a wimp, the mortar freezes up. Really. So it's off to the studio. Just in time because the third annual Wintertide show and sale is coming. We have lots of pots but it is a good excuse to get working on some new stuff. I was a little rusty on the wheel since I hadn't thrown anything for a few months but it's coming back to me. I think.

November 25th and 26th the place to be is the Elks Hall in Ponoka. Come on down and see the show. We should have at least one kiln load of brand new work and our good friend Shelagh Blatz of Design by Shelagh / will be joining us this year so it should be very exciting. Check out her website at http://designsbyshelagh.com 

See you there,
Joe
 
 
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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). 

 
 
Dakota and Grant are getting ready for school so it felt like an appropriate title. Well its been more than a month since the last blog entry and boy, did things not really change since then. It took us until last week to finally get our first cut of hay done. It has been a wet month. But once we got done we borrowed Mom and Dad's trailer and hit the road.
We hit Calaway Park our first day. The boys are braver than I am. Koda grew enough this last year to just squeak on to the roller coaster. Twice! After that busy day it was out to the mountains.
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John Chalke mug
We went in to Banff one afternoon and visited the Willock-Sax gallery where we picked up a couple of souvenirs. I picked out a nice little salt/soda fired mug by John Chalke.

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Barbara Tipton tumbler
And Auvery picked out a nice piece by Barbara Tipton, John's wife.

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Velvet Antler Pottery
Our last day in the mountains we decided to drive out to Field, BC, home of Velvet Antler Pottery and our friend Ryan Cameron. He is one the friendliest people you'll ever meet. We go out to visit every year or two and he and his wife Kathryn are always so helpful and inspiring about pottery.

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Ryan Cameron cup
Ryan was heading out the door for lunch when we got there but showed us some of the new pottery before he left. Telling him about using one of his cups as my favorite for rye, he gives me a new one. A beautiful little carbon trap shino cup with a little bit of chattering around the rim. So nice! Thanks Ryan.

We took the boys over to the school playground while Ryan went for lunch. Then we went back for a little more clay talk and to pick out a couple more souvenirs.

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Ryan Cameron porcelain cup
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Ryan Cameron porcelain cup
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Ryan is throwing and glazing this porcelain so it is actually translucent. It's like far out future space pottery.

Then it was back home for my awesome wife's birthday party. The unicorns were plenty.

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The next day we loaded a long overdue bisque kiln, inspired by our trip. It's now unloaded, with pots ready to glaze. A trip tomorrow to pick up castable for the wood kiln and hopefully a firing or two in the electric kiln before harvest comes to take me away. Summer is coming to an end, but hopefully not for another two months.

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Remember, safety first.
Joe

 
 
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Well, it was finally dry enough to bale some hay yesterday. I thought I might get the rest of it baled up today until I heard the thunder and lightning at five o'clock this morning. And then the grain trucks that were supposed to be coming this morning couldn't because they "lost a driver". So I worked on the kiln. I know, I know. "He worked on the kiln some more. Whoopee!"

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I've got the main bunch of bricks laid. This is as tall as the main chamber is going to get. Now I have to do some grinding and welding on the metal frame that helps hold the kiln together. Assemble that and then cast the throat arch. Move the lid, put the I beams together, build the firebox and chimney, blah, blah, blah.

I love it when a plan comes together.
Joe