Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pottery Northwest Wood Fire

Ahh, the wood fire. It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. My
thanks go out to Al Tenant for letting our class use his train kiln.

As you can tell from my last post, I was the one who got to start the wood fire with my old business cards. Al was so impressed with my means of purging out my old job he even took one of my old cards to pin up in his studio.

Our class had split the 50-hour firing into 5-hour sessions with 2 to 3 people at each shift. The firing started at about 6:20 pm on Friday December 5, 2008. My next shift was to start at 5:00 am Saturday. I had been getting up early for weeks in advance to prepare myself for this.

That Saturday was a great morning shift. We were still using the outside fire hole to keep the fire going but had taken down one section of it. The goal was to keep the fire burning with the temperature only going up 80 to 100 degrees per hour, then to remove the last section of the fire hole and start to have the fire stoked in the train kiln. We were able to get the fire hole totally removed after my shift during the beginning of the next shift.

During this shift we had the most amazing sunrise. I could see it happening and took a little break to walk down to the beach and take some photos. There were clouds above but none on the horizon. Which let the sunlight through to bounce off of the clouds above and create this amazing orange red light. I got some photos of an egret, seagulls, and sand pipers. I was also able to grab a couple of pictures of Al walking his dog on the beach.

Of course it was very cold out there by the beach in Coupeville, Whidbey Island. Especially on that first night/day when the kiln had not heated up enough to keep us warm.

My next shift was for Sunday morning at 5:00. By that time the temperature was up to 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. We were loading the big logs into the firebox at that time, and man was it hot. You had to get suited up to load the logs. All natural long sleeved clothing, scarf around the face, welding glasses, welding gloves and a hat. Even then my sweaters sleeves were smoldering after loading a couple of times. At the same time your had to load small kindling through the stoke hole. This gives you additional ash near the back of the kiln.

You want to have ash throughout the kiln because the ash is actually acting as your glaze. Depending on the wood you use you can get different colors. This is why our class was using a Helmers B-mix clay body for a majority of our pieces with the exterior sides unglazed. This clay flashes well in a wood fire. We were firing with Alder wood, which can give you a blue tinge to yellow orange.

I stuck around for a while after my shift was over and took some more photos of people and the inside of the kiln, fire is so hypnotic. I wanted to stick around till the end, but that wasn’t going to be until late Sunday night.

The wood firing for me was a great experience and now I am hooked. I can’t wait to be able to do another one.

No comments: