Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Firing No. 15

What marked out No. 15 from the others?
Certainly no two firings are ever exactly the same; the variables are always present, weather, wind, the fuel. Be it dry wood or even the type of timber, the way the pots are stacked in the kiln or their location.

It certainly was very cold packing the kiln in the snow and getting the newly bat-washed shelves dry, let alone all the freshly glazed pots was a challenge. It has been six months since the last time this kiln had been fired and the whole was damp and cold having stood all winter - a slow gentle fire was required, just to get the bricks warm and drive out the moisture.

The wind was from the north east, usually the prevailing wind from the west blows directly at the fire box and that can make the fire very lively for the first couple of hours. It was more restrained this time and the temperature climb was slow and steady.
The previous day had seen blizzards and driving snow. Fortunately the snow did not hang around and to order, the skies cleared, the sun shone and the frost melted. Even so it was still very cold and we started with the pyrometer reading -0 degrees. As stoking got underway a wedge of approximately 30 Whooper swans streamed overhead, white against the pale blue sky, whooping their greeting as they went north.

Dry wood burns with a wonderful bright flame and a jolly crackle. There is simple pleasure gently stoking laths of pallet wood in the sharp, bright, morning sunshine with the smell of woodsmoke hanging. Stoking continues without drama, less wood required than normal and as dusk fell, so did the first cones.

This little kiln has behaved much the same each time and holding the temperature around 1260 only required two planks of pallet each stoke, some hardwood from crates used to encase stone slabs, built the ember bed and held the heat. At around thirteen hours with cone 10 over at the bottom, it was time to clam up. A little island of heat in the cold night air.

Treasure within

Sometimes I am asked to share the opening with friends. Making pots and firing is a solitary occupation, but taking down the wicket and revealing the treasures within is best shared.
Andy and Di ooohhed and aaahed as each pot was passed out. It means there is less opportunity for disappointment to set in this way or the 'black dogs' to take hold as the pots are whisked away, each one held up as a new treasure and wonder.
The disappointments come later - when the visitors have gone and the contents of the kiln lie scattered around. Pots imagined in slightly different tones and colours, hoped for glaze runs and ash deposits, sit there in different clothes - like getting to know them all over again.

It takes a few days to renew this acquaintance with the new pots, look at all the colours, how the flame caused the glaze to blush, drip and pause just at the foot.

I have to declare it to be a satisfying event and the four big bottles very nice... the best to emerge from the kiln so far.

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