Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Pots

Joe and Christy let me put a lot of pots in their last firing. They were planning on only firing 2 of the 3 chambers of their kiln when I had a "great idea". I had enough pots made to fill a chamber. They had the space, I needed to fire, and I wanted to see their new pottery. Perfect.

Most of the pots I wanted to fire were part of a commissioned 10 piece place setting order that included dinner plates, salad plates, tumblers, bowls, a large platter, a large bowl, a pitcher and a gravy boat. I also had a few teapots, tea cups, tea bowls and mugs. It was approximately 65 pieces all together. It was definitely a chamber's worth with all the plates, they tend to eat kiln space (these were glazed inside and out as well, not stacked). My pieces were spread throughout the 3 chambers, I did not have them all together in a particular chamber.

Every now and then the kiln gods cut me a break. In all fairness I think it was past due. I haven't shared those bad firings on my blog yet, maybe some other time. I'm enjoying this one too much to reflect on that right now. Let's just say I got results that I had hoped for or at least not too far from it. There was a nice reduction of the clay, especially in the first chamber. My temmoku glaze was the best I've ever seen it. The shino glaze that I used came out almost a tomato red. I was not expecting that but it looked really good when paired with the temmoku. It was a bittersweet firing because Joe and Christy had bloating issues with their clay. Hopefully by their next firing they will have that problem worked out. The two clays that I used had no bloating issues, Highwater's Zella Stone for the plates and the Starworks' white NC clay blend for everything else.

My favorite pot was my amber celadon teapot that had some black slip designs (top photo). I've used this glaze in kilns that had either salt or soda introduced into the kiln. I have learned to protect it so that the color does not get washed out. But it looked so much better without any salt/soda. I was also pleasantly surprised that a teapot finally worked out for me. Two months ago I would not have bet money on that one (see earlier posts: lids, disaster, etc). I guess the gods are stringing me along for a little while longer.

These photos were taken by my friend Jonathan Truesdale.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Loading, Firing, and Unloading at Windy Ridge

Loading the kiln took 3 full days, even with not wadding the pots in the 2nd and 3rd chambers. We used sand instead of wadding since salt would not be introduced into the kiln and there would not be much ash in these chambers. This worked well except for some of Joe's ash glazes in hotter spots. We had some pots stuck to shelves but for the most part no problems.

My only minor complaint during loading was the cold. I'm originally from Mississippi and that should give you an idea of my cold tolerance, I don't have any. It snows about an inch every 4 years down there. It's just not that cold. But fortunately Christy taught me how to dress warmly, a lesson that had not been necessary before. All I can say is coveralls are the bomb. Yes, I look like a tick on a blood clot, but I'm warm. Another obstacle that I was not used to was sleet and snow while carrying pots from the studio to the kiln. It is not easy carrying boards of green glazed pots 50 yards while pelted in the face with sleet at 30mph. Needless to say I left Wisconsin with a rosy cheeked naturally blushed face. Windy Ridge is definitely the most appropriate name for this pottery.

On Easter Sunday we had a short break from loading that included a hearty meal prepared by Christy's mom and dad complete with caramel brownies and peach pie. Mmm.

Now for the firing. We started the kiln Monday night after loading. Joe candled the kiln starting at 11 pm. He left around 2 am and let the fire burn down. I think he got up to around 200 degrees. I showed up at 6 am and the temperature was around 125 degrees. We gradually increase the temperature about 50 degrees per hour for the first day. Christy ended up with the night shift on Tuesday night. I left around 11 pm and returned at 7am on Wednesday. It was a pretty easy stoking cycle going so slow, except for Christy's shift. I forgot what temperature she was at (maybe around 1100), but she was at the point where the firebox would get overstuffed when stoked from the bottom but it was too early to start stoking on the grates. She kept it going, but it was a lot of work. I think next time they have decided to stoke on the grates earlier. Reduction started around daybreak on Wednesday. From 1 to 6 pm we held the kiln near top temperature, trying to build up ash in the first chamber. Around 6 pm we got the first chamber to 2350ish and started stoking the second chamber. We stoked the second chamber for 3 hours with most cone 10's moving or at a half. We started stoking the last chamber when cone 08 was down, finishing that chamber in a mere hour and 15 minutes. I'm sure I'm slightly off on the exact times, I don't have the firing log for reference. There is also the cooked brain effect that happens after a while, when memory loss is at an optimum. J and C please correct me if I am wrong at any stage.

We let the kiln cool for a day and a half, opening it on Friday at noon. Unloading took no time, only a few hours. These photos were taken as we were unloading. The first photo shows the back stack in the first chamber. You can see a lot of my plates in the middle of this stack. The next photo is the pots just out of the kiln. Most of my pots are in the front left of this photo. The last photo is a picture of some early shoppers. These ladies were eager to check things out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2180 miles

Please forgive me for not posting sooner. As soon as I returned home to North Carolina from my 10 day Wisconsin road trip I jumped right back into loading and firing another kiln. Two days after the 18 hour trip, I started helping my friend Lara O'Keefe load her kiln out in Pittsboro.

I drove 2,180 miles to fire 65 pots in Joe and Christy Cole's kiln. Those of you that know me know that I'm not afraid to get behind the wheel in the name of pottery. I did several commutes to and from Penland during my 8 week concentration there. I also drove 3 days a week for over a year to Seagrove to work with Joe at Dover pottery (an hour and a half drive one way). In my mind, it's worth it. To learn something that you can't find close to home. It's a little extra time and energy, but well worth it in the end. Also, I wasn't just firing pottery, I got to hang out with my friends that I haven't seen in a long time. That part was great, we picked up where we left off. It was like no time had passed.

Fortuitously, I started my drive in time to enjoy driving through West Virginia during daylight. I always forget how beautiful it is there, in my head I started planning a rafting trip for the summer. I rafted the New and Gauley rivers a few years ago and it was one of my favorite vacations. I've also been to West Virginia in winter to ski. I didn't enjoy skiing so much, maybe if I had tried it before the age of 5 (when you develop fear of falling). Also don't try skiing for the first time with a bunch of Canadians, they only gave me 5 minutes on the bunny slopes. Not fair.

Nightfall approached as I was driving through Kentucky. I did see more of it on the trip back. Beautiful farms with the greenest grass. I also relished the bridge in Louisville while crossing the Ohio River. On the way home while crossing the bridge I viewed part of the Thunder Air Show for free.

I headed west toward Indianapolis, drove on the Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds Highway. I only heard 3 John Mellencamp songs on the radio before stopping for the night in Lafayette, IN (go Purdue Boilers).

I left early the next morning and headed northwest toward Chicago. I was anticipating "toward Chicago". As I approached I could see all the tall buildings in the distance. I thought to myself, "that's cool, really close to Chicago". As I drove the buildings kept getting closer and larger. This is when Double T and Double J had words. Bad words.

Double T, is my GPS (short for Tom Tom). I bought a GPS, for this trip. I figured I needed it since I was on my own. I didn't want to be holding up 15 pages of maps while driving and this GPS speaks the directions out loud. Also Steven's band can use it when they play shows outside the Triangle. A good idea anyway.

With 18 hours of directions, it's hard to see where you will be at hour 15. And let's be honest, I didn't read the entire instruction packet. Maybe there was a way to foresee the CENTER OF CHICAGO, but I was unaware. Unaware until I passed under Michigan Ave and by Cellular Field, the home of the White Sox. Next was Sears Tower, and O'Hare Airport. I swear something was on fire in the field outside the airport. I couldn't spend much time on that though since I was driving through the CENTER OF CHICAGO. Eventually I said peace out to Oprah and Chicago while Double T guided me out of the city. Double T owes me $10 in tolls and about 6 months off the end of my life. Technology.

After lunch near Chicago (where they apparently they have never heard of yellow mustard), I headed toward Madison. Wisconsin was an enjoyable site as well. The unique barns and dairy farms kept me entertained during this leg of the trip. Soon after Madison I arrived safely in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. I got there in time to help clean out the first chamber of the kiln and kiln wash the floors to combat the random and unwanted foaming brick issues from Joe and Christy's first firing.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wisconsin bound

Sorry it has been so long since I posted. I have been working constantly on finishing pots and glazing for my next firing. I have packed my car full of glazed pots and I'm heading to Wisconsin. Yep, Wisconsin. I'm going to visit my friends Joe and Christy Cole and help fire their three chambered kiln. I am taking two days to drive there since it's about 17 hours. Once I get there we will load the kiln for a few days, then start firing. I am really looking forward to seeing Joe and Christy! Gotta go, I'm literally out the door right now.