But despite everything else going on, really this month revolved around my annual Wood-firing Workshop, where I take a group of students from the Greenbelt Community Center up to Baltimore Clayworks to load and fire their wood-kiln. This is always a lot of work, but this year it was especially challenging due to the weather. It poured buckets of rain for two days straight. Here are some soggy scenes, starting with loading everyone's boxes into my van for the trip up to Clayworks:
In case you're wondering how we managed to load the kiln in the pouring rain, the shed roof over the kiln can protect some pots at a time, but most of the pots were unpacked inside the classroom building that is next to the kiln. We started by hand-carrying out a few pots, as many as could fit under the shed roof. Then, there was a constant shuttling of people and pots. As pots were moved into the kiln, more pots were brought outside. We hunched over them and walked as fast as we could. We got soaking wet, but managed to keep the pots dry. It all took about an hour longer than usual. (Photo by Janet Evander)
Here is our official group photo from the workshop, after we finished loading the kiln and bricking up the doors. From left to right: Karen Morgenstern, Karen Arrington, Tom Baker, Jonathan Gordy, Gina Denn, Amy Castner, Carol Wisdom, Janet Evander, me, Alan Dowdy, and our wood-fire guide and guru, Jim Dugan from Baltimore Clayworks. Not pictured are Karen Riedlinger, Quianna Douglas, and Kuniko Wallis. Photo by Kuniko Wallis, using Alan Dowdy's camera. Yes it was still raining and getting dark when we finished, Alan's camera has a low-light feature that took the best photo.
The next day as we fired the kiln, it rained off and on, sometimes heavily. We worked in shifts of four or five people at a time, so we were able to fit under the roof and stay dry. Here's a shot from the early morning hours near the end of the firing. It's a lovely scene, and yes it's still raining. (Photo by Alan Dowdy)
I've said before that Greenbelters are the best wood-firers I've ever had the privilege with which to fire. Once again, I was shown why. I know there were many situations here that were difficult. But nobody complained. Everybody kept up their good spirits and work ethic, and got it done. I hope that before too long we will all be laughing about "that time we wood-fired in the pouring rain." Thankfully, the weather cleared up in time to unload the kiln a few days later. Our perseverance was rewarded with beautiful pots:
My years-long quest to make gray pots in a wood-kiln is finally starting to bear fruit. If you are familiar with my work, you know that warm gray and brown shades are the basis for everything I do. I've always gone nuts over the crusty gray pots that are the result of heavy salt glazing, but I want to find a process for gray pots that is more predictable, and suitable for functional pots. Most of my previous attempts resulted in blue pots (the horror!). The taller sake bottle in this photo really excites me. I made a white flashing slip, and added 1% of black mason stain 6600, and mixed it up thin. I used a coarse brush to apply it to this porcelain bottle, which resulted in all of my favorite shades of gray and brown. As you can see, I also used a lot of celadon glaze on porcelain, which I am thrilled about too. But the gray slip is the direction that I am dying to explore further.