Thursday, October 20, 2005

First Wood Firing

My first wood firing. Many Thanks to Tony Ferguson for his invitation. It is a firing that will no doubt be one of my most memorable.

Early Friday morning began by cleaning out the Anagama kiln. There was some old ash and a bunch of wads that had to be chipped out. Then the brick floor needed a little bit of clean-up with a grinder to remove any fused wads. Once I got the kiln cleaned out we unloaded all the pottery and arranged the pots in an order/priority of how they would be loaded into the kiln. I had about 18 tea bowls that needed to be glazed, so while Tony was doing some other chores I glazed my bowls with some glazes he had brought down from Duluth--A couple of Shinos and a Tea Dust Temmoku.

The loading process began about 1 pm in the afternoon and basically consisted of me handing Tony, who was inside the kiln, the pots as they had been previously arranged. It took a lot longer than we thought.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Loading the kiln took over five hours and we didn't finish up till about 7pm Friday night. Tony actually did all the loading hunched over on his knees. I just handed him the shelves and the pots as called for.
The shelves were by far the heaviest of the work and careful placement on the stilts was critical. The placement of each new shelf brought moans, groans, and grunts out of the archway. Those shelves were heavy.
The kiln took a little longer than normal to load because of one problem piece. It was a tall vase form. The wads that were glued to the bottom of the vase made the piece too tall to fit on the top shelf. So, in and out of the kiln it was passed. Each time I would file a little bit off the wads and it seemed like it was never enough, but we finally got the vase loaded.
Finally loaded, the next step was to carefully and skillfully brick up the front of the kiln. There had to be a small stoke hole in the center and there also couldn't be any large gaps between any of the bricks and the arch. Soft brick was sawed and sanded to plug the larger gaps and ceramic fiber was used to seal the cracks. Once that was completed a layer of mud-type mortar was trowelled over the brick to completely seal the cracks between the brick.


Stoking the kiln does not stop until the kiln reaches temp, approximately 2,300 degrees, and the proper cone falls. My solo experience started about 5 in the morning and didn't end till early afternoon when Tony gave me a break. Even then we still stoked till 7 pm Sunday night.
I stoked the kiln about every 2 minutes, usually with one large piece of wood approximately 36 inches long and anywhere from 8 to 12 inches wide. It was excruciating and non-stop. The routine of stoking became robotic and the intense heat didn't really matter, due to lack of sleep. No time to pee, no time to smoke. It was just stoke, stoke, stoke.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Red Hot Pots

I believe this picture was taken at the beginning of my morning shift, approximately 5:30am. Temperature approximately 1700 degrees. At this temperature the glazes are fluid and they seem to magically dance over each piece of pottery. It is very hynotic. About 3 to 4 hours into my shift I start talking to myself. My knees hurt and my back aches. The heat is doing something to my brain. After 6 hours I don't feel much of anything. Must be going on pure adrenaline.

Finally Done

Finally Done. Thirty hours of stoking. Drank three gallons of water. Seems like no sleep for three days. Three cords of wood burned. Dulled three chainsaw blades. Lost ten pounds. Beat Tired. Feel run over by a freight train. It took me one week to recover from the experience, But 18 tea bowls--Priceless!