Archive for September 9th, 2010

Burn Baby Burn: Dish-go Inferno.

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Firing is intense. I have never managed to do it very far ahead of when the pots actually are needed. It just always goes that way. Two weeks ago I started counting backwards from the sale day and planning when things needed to be done to maintain a schedule that would get things done in time. I finished trimming all of the pots last week and got them bisque fired before Sunday was upon me. Monday I unloaded the bisque and started glazing. Monday was difficult. It being the Labor Day holiday lots of people were out and about and a lot of them made a stop at the pot shop part of their day. It was hard to keep things going. Tuesday I was finishing glazing and packing the kiln. I fired off the kiln last night and it is cooling as I write this. It will be unloaded tomorrow and the tourists start showing up on Saturday morning. Here are some images of the process.
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Getting to the point of loading the kiln seems to take forever. After glazing and carrying all of the available pots out to the kiln yard on boards each pot has small clay wads glued top the bottom to prevent the pots from fusing to the furniture in the kiln. The pots are packed onto shelves made from high refractory materials. The little pointy things visible in the packed kiln are pyrometric cones that melt at a specific point and let me monitor the firing’s progress.
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As the shadows lengthened and the day’s last light warmed the waiting fire wood Lee was there to help out and cheer me on. The loading day is always the longest.

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I wandered down to the kiln yard by star light and kindled the fire at 5:30. The early stages of the firing go slow as I warmed up the the kiln and it’s contents. By the time things started to heat up it was morning and the sun was on me.

Looking into the main fire box I can make out the grates. When the interior of this area is glowing orange I’ll begin stoking wood on top of those grates. throughout the day the fire proceeds forward in the kiln preheating the areas in it’s path.

Before things get too hot I mudded up the door to seal it so that it won’t suck air into the firing chamber. The mud mixture is roughly half clay and half sand.

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I have fired this kiln 73 times since Kevin Crowe helped me build it in 1999. I have sat on the seat in front of that fire box a long time ocver the decade since then. These are the scenes I star at while waiting for the next stoke to come around.
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While waiting for the next stoke I watch the smoke stack and the blow holes for clues. I also listen to the sounds the burning wood makes. These sounds change as the heat rises in the kiln. They indicate when I should stoke again. Timing is crucial. I have only found one person that I trust to watch the fire while I take a break for lunch and a quick power nap. It is Lee. She understood the firing without ever being told what to do. She has an amazing intuitive sense.

I check the cones to see how the fire is progressing. They don’t indicate an exact temperature but measure how much melting is happening in the kiln, which is what I really b=need to know. Checking the cones is like sticking a straw in a cake to test doneness.
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Matt Chatterley dropped by to check out the firing. he was in town for the Spring City Arts Plein Air painting competition. Later Alex and Mateo peterson came by as well. Mateo is ever ready for Halloween.

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As the sun sank the sky took on amazing colors. I turned and saw the eastern lights going wild and ran to the road between stokes to snap these rare shots.
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The last few hours of the firing are pretty mellow. In the middle part I am stoking three places alternately; two places in the main fire box and the first chamber. After I have made the transition to the second fire box I am only stoking that fire box and it requires much less concentration though I still have to be awake and paying attention. Lee often comes down with some dinner and we sit and talk while I stoke and watch the kiln. It is a quiet time.
I often put R. Carlos Nakai on the boom box and kick back during this time.