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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The farmer with a kiln
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...