Monday, 2 June 2014

No Plan B

Now the ash has settled and fluxed there has been time to reflect on firing No. 19. Not to bore you with the mundane task of placing pots in a kiln, shovelling ever increasing amounts of wood into a hungry furnace until little pyramids bend over. The object being to get the ones at the top of the kiln, where it is hotter, to bend the same as the ones at the bottom where it is cooler. When that is done, you clam up all the air gaps and go lie down somewhere cool and have a beer.

On the surface one firing is much the same as another in this little kiln, but when I go back through the log sheets I can see that I now fire for longer and get much hotter, with much more confidence than those first few firings. Some potters give their kilns exotic names:- Eclipse, Solstice, Phoenix,  which suggests an intimacy I don't yet feel I have earned. I don't have a name for mine; just little kiln. It's a tool that completes the final part in the long process of making a pot.

We have a love hate relationship. I hate it when the temperature resolutely refuses to climb. I love it when I take down the bricks to the wicket and there are treasures within.

So was firing No. 19 any different? There seemed to be a few more pots squeezed in. The box shapes were placed diagonally this time, so that a corner faced the flame, instead of being broadside on. There were more bigger pots at the top and their shapes were more aerodynamic in profile, hoping to coax the flame through the kiln, there were less open spaces with little sacrificial pots placed in gaps between  big bottles. The wood was dry but it was mainly Poplar, which did not produce the heat I was looking for, so there was much playing around with dampers and amount of air being allowed into the kiln. We got there in the end, but it seemed at one stage that this firing might take a while longer than usual. As it turned out, thirteen hours was about the same as the last four or five firings.
The start and finish are always the same, what happens between varies slightly, but compare the log sheets and the similarities are amazing, it just doesn't seem that way when the concentration is full on and the outcome so critical. This little kiln knows it's own way home now and the stoker is an interloper, fussing and messing, not always listening or alive to the signs being given out.

The results? Some splendid pots from the top, some pleasant surprises from the bottom cooler places. Longer at mid temperature, but more even throughout. A bit more carbon trap maybe but no significant differences overall and diagonally placed boxes fire more evenly with less warping.
So some small lessons learned that can be taken on to firing no. 20, the quest for knowledge about what really happens inside that red hot, bricked up space continues.

Kiln and stoker consider themselves satisfied, both are doing well. There is only one plan and that is plan A.

1 comment:

  1. Please tell me how I can purchase your pots - travelling is difficult for me.