Thursday, November 26, 2009

Catching up with children, special orders

Smelling turkey baking in the oven as I relax on Thanksgiving Day 2009, waiting for my children to arrive so we can feast and catch up on the latest news. I'm working on some special orders this week, a couple of large tree platters, some horse hair jars and mugs for the "Trailheads," a nearby running club, but I won't be getting back to work until Monday.

Burnished jars still drying

Mugs for runners

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Celebration Setup

Setup at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters took place this afternoon. I set up my camera and used the "intervalometer" setting on my Canon S3 to shoot a picture every 10 minutes. I could only get one aisle in the camera viewfinder. Wish I had a fisheye lense.

Anyway, here it is:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Second firing

Flames billow out of kiln,
bursting with brilliance.

Firing number two went pretty well, as far as I can tell. My wife, Mary, and I stoked from 6 .m. until 9:20 p.m. We were exhausted, as we had spent the previous day loading (and last-minute glazing) until 10 p.m.

We attempted to fire the same as the first firing, stoking every 10 minutes or so, with a neutral environment, then heavy reduction the last two or three hours. We slowed the firing down for the first 1,000 degrees as we had a large raw pot inside. Cone 13 was tipping in the front and cone 10 was tipping in the back when we sealed up the kiln, which we did more efficiently than the first time. I was a bit worried when flames started forming as in the picture above, but they slowly subsided and they weren't near any wood.

Peaking inside tonight, I believe we had cooler pots toward the back than the first time. I saw one pot with a heavy coat of terra sigilatta that looked interesting. We'll unload Wednesday, clean up the pots and pack them up for taking them to Seagrove Thursday for the Celebration of Seagrove Potters.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Second firing in Manabigama underway

Sparks fly during early stoking.

I packed my pots a little tighter in the second kiln firing in my Manabigama, preheating overnight with one burner just because of all the rain we had recently. I'll have plenty of wood-fired pots for the second annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters this coming weekend.

I've participated in many wood firings, but this is the first kiln I've fired by myself that wasn't an electric kiln. So, I'm still learning. Thank you John Thies for answering all my questions and guiding me through the process of building the kiln. Following John's suggestions on firing the kiln that he and others designed, I fired my first load successfully and the results were excellent. Being color challenged in red, green, browns, I've had to rely on others to tell me about the beautiful subtle colors on the pots. I can see them, but I don't know what color they are.

I'm firing this load of pots in the same manner as the previous firing, hoping for similar results. We'll see soon. Like the first firing, most of the pots are only glazed on the inside, allowing the flame and ash to decorate the pots. I'm looking forward to many successful firings.

Hope to see some of you at the Celebration.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Inside the kiln

The weather was crap today for unloading my first firing, but I went ahead on schedule. I had to work in the rain and secure a big piece of black plastic and some tin around the kiln to keep the driving rain from soaking everything.

Everyone was pleased with the results. Two large platters came out beautiful, but the one extra thick one that I set on its side cracked, as well as a nice bottle in the front. We had some beautiful results, and I'll share some individual pictures, but for now, here's what we found when we opened up the kiln.

I had already taken out several small pots through the stoke hole.

Big platter that cracked on the left

Well done. Cheers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Unloading Wednesday

I'll be unloading the kiln tomorrow afternoon. Someone's filming the unloading as a high school project, so we'll wait until he can get here.

First Pot

I lifted this pot out with a long iron tooth pick of sorts
that the blacksmith fashioned for me, the first pot
out of the kiln, and the experience of pulling it out and
examining it hit me a few minutes later after taking
a picture of it and sitting down in front of my
laptop computer to view the picture.

"Moments are the sum of all the previous moments we've experienced."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Successful First Firing

Early stoking

A group of soul pots tumble-stacked on the left

Me and Morgan just after a stoke

Looking inside a grate pipe, filled with castable - center is hollow.

Can anyone guess who this stoker is (nearing the end of firing)?

Thank you Phillip Pollet, Jared Zehmer, Morgan Hatfield, David Steumpfle, Andres Allik, Wil Mahan, Mary Holmes and Susan McGehee for helping out with my first-ever wood firing. We bent cone 13 in the front and 10 in the back and sealed up the kiln at around 6:45 p.m. yesterday, about a 14-hour firing. Mary served some Irish stew and bean soup afterward, and our friends Jack and Donna from Aberdeen brought handmade ravioli which we ate for lunch.

Only a couple of incidents:

Morgan was stoking the kiln while I went for coffee in the morning and when I got back, he said there was a big "boom" that shook the ground. We found a stress crack in the concrete which seemed to have developed under the firebox. I believe it was caused by a wet spot that formed under the firebox when the grate pipes dripped condensation all night long during preheating, resulting from the curing of castable that was packed inside the pipes. Hopefully, the crack is nothing to worry about.

Phillip and I scrambled around relocating the chain that held our stoking door after swelling of the kiln door made it impossible to slide the chain to open the door.

We overstoked a couple of times and lost temperature while we waited for the wood to burn down.

We will let the kiln cool today and begin opening it up Tuesday.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kiln Intimacy

Phil coats the floor of the kiln with 'kiln wash.'

Anticipation replaced apprehensiveness today as Phillip Pollet and I spent the day preparing pots and kiln shelves and posts, applying a coat of alumina hydroxide/kaolin to the shelves and posts and kiln floor to protect from glazes and the caustic ingredients of wood combustion. Tomorrow, I'll glaze the rest of my pots and start loading the kiln.

I stood at the mouth of my kiln, peering inside - as I've done many times in the past weeks - envisioning the flame swirling around pots. I felt something beyond a sense of accomplishment, something more akin to entitlement - permission from the kiln gods to proceed. It's hard to put into words, but there's something very personal about building a kiln brick by brick, preparing stacks of wood with which to fire it - a sense of intimacy with the materials.

I went over David Steumpfle's to borrow a propane burner today and saw the progress on his wood-fired kiln. It's a beauty. Curvaceous.

Andres Allik, potter and kiln builder from Estonia, was busy slicing through a large refractory block with a wet saw. He picked up the block to bring it to the chimney area of David's kiln, and I told him the kiln is beautiful. He smiled.

"I said to Nancy (David's wife) this morning, 'I think David has a new girlfriend,'" he said.

David stands inside his new kiln. The holes on the right are for 'side stoking.'

Adding more wood to the mix

I bought a new 10-inch blade for Susan's chop saw, which she is using in the picture above, to cut up some pine slabs to add to the mix of wood that I will be firing the new kiln with Sunday. I sliced through a few of the larger slabs with my electric chain saw.

I'll be glazing a few pots today and loading pots tomorrow, preheating starting late Saturday night with propane, as I've got to maintain a 300-degree temperature for about eight hours to cure the castable key in the arch and the castable in the grate pipe.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Two videos: goblettes and 'minding spots'

Video clip below

I hadn't posted anything on Youtube in a while, so I filmed myself throwing a few what I call "goblettes" yesterday and posted them on Youtube. Checking out the clip later, I clicked on one of those links to other videos they put at the end of your clips and discovered this young lady in Australia who does a great little commentary on a regular basis. She's got the top spot on Youtube for subscribers, 445,908, and more than 22 million people have viewed her clips since she started "vlogging" (video blogging). There's not a way to embed her videos (I did manage to get her snapshot at the right), so here's a link to one of her "vlogs" about friends that ask you to "mind my spot."

And here's my video on throwing "goblettes."