Saturday, October 19, 2013

Working Toward another Good Firing

Decorating another large vase for wood firing

I've got an upcoming show in Pensacola Florida the first weekend in November. The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is held Nov. 1,2,3. I'm firing the wood kiln next weekend, and I've been busy drawing trees and vines on five large vases I made last week.

These vases are somewhere around 20 inches high. The trees are the most labor intensive. I work for several hours on these. I'll be placing these in the wood kiln and firing in such a way as to maximize what we call flashing, and minimizing ash buildup.

Closeup of flashing on a pot
Flashing is where subtle coloring occurs on the surface of a pot due to the interaction of the clay surface with the volatile compounds of the flame. Too much ash buildup obliterates the color.

Placement of the pieces in the kiln is important, as well as how the kiln is fired. Placing a pot behind another pot protects it from too much ash buildup. If I decorate a piece with trees surrounding the entire pot, I will try to protect that pot from ash. If I decorate a piece only partially with trees, I can arrange the pot in the kiln such that the decoration is facing the back of the kiln so that the design isn't blasted by the flame and ash.

The picture below shows placement of pots in the front of the kiln. Top shelf for some reason doesn't get a lot of ash buildup in the very front of the kiln. Pots on shelves below it get a lot of ash, so the tree designs are facing the back of the kiln. The large pot at the top has three other large pots directly behind it, somewhat protected from the ash.

Front shelf

Ash buldup can be seen on left

Three vases ready for firing

Friday, October 11, 2013

Feedback Inspires

Wood-fired vase, 18 inches high

The picture above got a lot of attention when I posted it (along with a host of other pictures from the latest firing) on Facebook: 48 shares or more, and more than 100 likes, as far as I can tell, and I'm still getting feedback.

Nothing like positive feedback to inspire. I unloaded this pot during our annual kiln opening Oct. 5. I fired the kiln a little different this time, with a long "reduction cool" at the end. I let the temperature drop to 2,000 degrees and sealed it up, then stoked small fresh pine branches - a few at a time - for five hours as the kiln cooled to somewhere between 1,600 and 1,500.

I'll be repeating the technique during the next firing in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I'm having fun with some new shapes. These are two-piece pots. The base is 10-12 pounds, the top, 4-5 pounds.

I'm including a few pictures from the last firing.

Three vases drying in studio, 18-20 inches high
Getting ready to lift one off the wheel
small bottle
Three small vases
Small vase
My high-iron local clay
My local clay
Three small jars

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Come by and Take Part in the Unloading

Normally, I'd be up in the morning today to begin unbricking my wood-fired kiln, but this weekend I'm giving my customers the chance to experience seeing the pots for the first time. I'm unloading Saturday morning beginning around 9 a.m. - the start of our annual R.D. Mahan Kiln Opening and Turkey Roast here at From the Ground Up (Oct. 5 and 6).

For me, unloading a kiln is significant, especially the wood kiln, since there is so much labor involved, and so much that can happen which is beyond my control. I enjoy spending time with each pot as it's removed from its place in the kiln. I think about why it looks the way it looks, what it might have looked like if it got more ash, was behind another pot or other such things.

"This one got a bit more reduction...."

"I like what the ash did here...."

"Nice color on this one...."

Of course, there's disappointments, too, and I usually take a moment to mourn the loss of that pot before moving on to the next one. Pottery making can be frustrating. Pots collapse, crack, warp. Glazes run, crawl, shiver. Kiln overfire, underfire. So, when a really nice pots come out of a kiln, it's very satisfying.

Come on by Saturday morning and take part. We live and work at 172 Crestwood Road, Robbins, NC, 27325. Ten minutes south of Seagrove, NC. See you then.


Looking in from the back of the kiln
The pots at the front
I really want to pick up that one at the far right.