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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

 
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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Well, the kiln is getting bigger and the brick piles are getting smaller. If I do a little bit of shuffling around, I might be able to move a couple of pallets out of the way. The dead grass squares will look great but it will be nice to have less things to trip over.

Ciao baby,
Joe
 
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Well the trees are blooming.

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The seeding is done.

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So kiln supervisor #2 and I have been taking advantage of some quiet mornings and getting some work done on the kiln. It's slow going but I think I can see the finish line over that hill.

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Three more courses of brick on the inside layer, six more on the outside and the main chunk of the kiln is laid.

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This is where we'll have to cast the throat arch. It's what seperates the firebox from the ware chamber. As I get closer to having to make the arch I get a little more nervous. Never worked with castable refractory before and never cast anything this big and.... Oh well, I've been learning as we go right from the start. Might as well dabble in another skill.

Catch you later.

Joe

 
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Here on Reid Road we have two perfectly good electric kilns. Adequate, modern, plug in, turn on, get a snack. We fire the pottery we make to "cone 6" or mid-fire (the most common form of pottery for home use). This was working well, it was nearly fool proof, and I was becoming more and more comfortable with our technique and materials. So then hubby gets an itch, a longing starts to grow... things around here are too modern, too easy, it's like we're livin' in the matrix! Microwave cooking, gas powered vehicles stinkin' up the countryside! We need to put the brakes on! His beefy limbs are beginning to rust just turning dials. He sniffed the air and before we knew it we were scouring the countryside gathering bricks fom Field B.C. to someplace up north??? we hauled the cattle trailer full of bricks, trip after trip. Brick by brick loaded into the trailer and back out into the barn. Luckily last summer we had volunteers (thanks Jeff!), who seemed to find brick lifting a neat way to spend their day!
Now I venture into telling you what this kiln (clay oven) will do. Instead of making pots, loading the kiln, turning the dial and going home to bed, we will: make pots, haul dead wood from around the farm, saw, chop and split wood, pile wood near kiln, load kiln with pots, seperate pots from each other by placing tiny balls of material called wadding on the feet and rims of each pot (because in the wood/salt atmosphere the pots would weld to the shelves/pots nearby), lower enormous, heavy lid onto kiln, start fire, build fire slowly, stoke fire, constantly watch fire, peek into flaming holes to check temperature measuring cones, at appropriate times throw bundles of salt or salt/soda mix into holes in kiln, continue to stoke fire for 12 to 40 hours, stay awake the entire time, trust no one, lather, rinse, repeat, when finished let cool for 5 days to see final results which will always be COMPLETELY UNPREDICTABLE. The adventure is just beginning!

 
Not much would be the answer. Until seeding gets done, most everything gets put on the back burner. But because of some rainy weather I got out to lay down some bricks on the kiln. Kiln supervisor #2 Grant, his friend Wormy and I laid down another course with mortar in the morning. Sadly Wormy was lost in action. Not squished or anything, merely misplaced in the grass, so everything is cool. The kiln is starting to look more and more like a kiln and not just a fort for the boys. Each course of brick seems to take around an hour and a half to lay (fitting the bricks dry and then using mortar). Then I do the outside layer (the kiln wall is 2 bricks thick). By the time I get the kiln finished I'll probably have this bricklaying thing figured out. Probably.

Happy trails
Joe