From left to right: Amy Castner, Vejune Svotelis, Kori Rice, Karen Morgenstern, me, Carol Wisdom, Alan Dowdy. Missing from the photo are Bill Aley and Tom Baker.
This is the gang of pyromaniacs from the Greenbelt Community Center at our recent wood-firing adventure in October. For most of these potters, these workshops have been their first exposure to wood-firing. We have now completed three of these firings in the last two years, and I can now brag that I have addicted them all.
Wood-firing doesn't always go smoothly, potential monkey wrenches are always lurking. But the character of Greenbelters was on display, everyone kept a productive attitude as we worked late into the night. We were exhausted and starving but still cheering as the pyrometer crossed its milestones. And afterwards, we thoroughly dissected our experiences and these discussions became part of the education. In particular, we discussed the importance of fuel, and not just the wood and the air, but also the human fuel. Don't scream, we didn't throw any humans into the firebox, I'm referring to all the labor and brainpower it takes to make the process work. All things considered, I think we all (including me) learned a lot more about wood-firing this time compared to the last firing when everything went without a hitch.
Here is Tom stoking the kiln, while Kori and Amy look on, and Karen captures an action photo herself. We eventually managed to reach cone 10 or above at 3 out of 4 of the peep holes. Then we had to wait an entire week before we could see our pots.
Here's a view inside the kiln before we started grabbing our pots! The bottom shelf got the most heat, the middle shelves got the most reduction. The entire load was light on reduction, ash, and salt, compared to the previous firings we had done. Believe it or not, we were not really surprised by that, because of the conversations we had between the firing and the unloading. But this is one of the lessons that wood-fire teaches you, that you can't always control what the kilns gives you. And there were still many beautiful pots to celebrate and marvel over as we shared a potluck picnic.
Which brings me to an important undercard to the event ... the food! We have always joked that we could cook a meal on the hot coals from the kiln, and this time Bill made it happen! He brought a cast iron dutch oven and concocted a delicious chicken stew. Vejune brought sweet potatoes, which were wrapped in foil and roasted. This was our lunch on firing day. Amy put it well on her Flickr album from the workshop
"Yeah, potters like to eat. And we're practical."
I guess it makes sense that good potters are good cooks. Both involve a knowledge of materials, linear processes, and heat. Plus a great deal of pottery is functionally intended for food, so people who think about pots are probably thinking about food too. Like I mentioned, we all brought a potluck dish for unloading day, and it was a feast. In fact, after I had eaten a giant meal complete with two desserts, I went back for seconds just because it was all so delicious.
But back to the pots ...
Bill had some crazy success with the Copper Red glaze! He enclosed the glazed inside of two tumble-stacked pots, creating his own mini-atmosphere. And I was very pleased with a new glaze I made for this firing called Rivulet. It is designed to bead up and run down a pot like a typical ash glaze, but does not contain any ash (i.e. shelf-stable). You can see this glaze on my Elephant Jar in the upper left of this photo, and also the pot that Bill fashioned to fire upside-down, so the Rivulet glaze ran up the pot. The unglazed mini elephants all came out very handsomely.
Tom sculpted this beautiful hand, and fired it with no glaze. A marvelous choice. Because he had spent most of his time and clay on one piece, we placed it on the edge of a shelf with the fingers cantilevering over the firebox, where it got some nice salt effects and reduction tones.
Carol used porcelain slip to add texture and patterns to her stoneware plates, then fired them unglazed. Stunning! I'm glad that because her plates were flat, they were placed on the middle shelves where they were nicely reduced.
Vejune spent a lot of time with crushed glass, placing it carefully into the recesses of her beads. Her Temmoku glazed bowl came out in a rich amber color.
Alan was stocking his kitchen, with lots of Celadon glazed mugs, and a set of dinner plates. He also made four incredible bowls that I neglected to photograph up close ... he tumble stacked them with the Rivulet glaze running both up and down.
Kori got some deep greens out of the Celadon inside these two nesting bowls, and also used the Rivulet glaze to nice effect inside her batter bowl.
Amy did nice work with glazes too, not to mention the intricate patterns of holes she punched into her berry bowls.
Karen brought some projects from our Advanced Wheel class ... these darted pitchers which she glazed in Temmoku. (Nice handles, Karen!)
I took some beauty shots of my pots when I got home. Here is the Rivulet glaze up close on an Elephant Jar.
(I found the recipe for Rivulet in the January 2008 issue of Clay Times, in an article by Reed Asher.)
Here is another pot whose potential really excites me. This is my first attempt at hakeme-style brushwork using porcelain slip on stoneware. There is Celadon glaze on top of the slip. Although there are some things about this pot I don't like, I'm eager to try this approach again.
And here are the chairs! A little Celadon glaze, and some glass shards on the seats for a bit of sparkle.
In an earlier post I asked, why is wood-firing so much fun? I don't have it all figured out yet, but I'm starting to put it together. You can't get any closer to the transformation aspect of your pots, because you are converting them into stone with your own labor. It's that human fuel I mentioned before, this process brings it out. And it takes a lot, therefore you get to experience all this with good friends. It's amazing to see the fire that gets built. It makes me feel both big and small. Everyone is already asking me "When can we do it again? Does it have to be year away?" Addicts! Yay!