wood fired vase


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Building the kiln shed took two summers. Hand planed beams, mortice and tendon joinery and no nails until you get to the roof…it’s a nice place to be in.

Building my wood fired kiln took a third summer.

Taking it down took one day.

The first firing was on August 23, 1982. We only reached bisque temperature, so got exactly nothing out of it but a good lesson. The next firing was about a week later…same work just loaded differently…and we got 35 good pieces out. For pots in a kiln, just as in human life, placement is everything. The 25th and last firing was on March 28th and 29th in 1995, and it was a beauty. I learned a lot about fire in those 13 years.

My biggest lesson was watching Maureen fire the kiln. In that second kiln, after about 12 straight hours of stoking, I was tired and not getting much temperature rise. Maureen came to help. She suggested that I take a nap, and let her try. She had been managing our wood fired kitchen stove for 11 winters, and this just looked similar. When I came back to stoke, she had the kiln humming like it was supposed to. I watched her, and took one of my biggest lessons. Rhythm is everything, and don’t choke the fireboxes. Once again as in life, less is more. Thanks Maureen!

Wood firing is a young person’s game. I started the project in my mid 30’s. We were wood firing porcelain which old people told me you shouldn’t do. And I wanted top end cone 12 to 13 temperatures as well. Silly potter. Both of us enjoyed the ride, but both of us eventually just looked at the kiln and shook our heads. If you haven’t used something in 22 years, maybe it is time…

I managed through contacts in the art world to find a young, energetic, poor university student potter that wanted to build a wood fired kiln on his family farm property. Giving this kiln away was a huge thrill…knowing it will be used again is really important. He and a friend rented a truck, and in one day we took down all of the kiln except the fire chamber. Some of that fire box was a melted mess, so had to be landfill, but the rest is now in London for re-use. It is lovely to know there are still lovely, silly, energetic optimistic potters out there…rare these days.
Where the kiln was is now a workshop. It is one door away from the 1860’s blacksmith shop, and the adjoining carriage maker’s shop. I have plans…

Speaking of plans, the next and last Lonsdale Studio Exhibition will be the last day of September and October 1st…

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