29 October 2008

#5 Review

I haven't posted much about my firing last week because I've been struggling with the results.
here's my math...5 firings x 2 chambers = 10 chambers fired. I'd rate the salt chamber this time in the top two and the wood chamber in the bottom two. I missed reduction in the wood and I'm still troubled by that...I thought it looked right and without it a lot of the work in that chamber is pale and looks underfired. I don't think that temperature is at fault here...cone 12 was down in most spots. I added bentonite to some of the glazes to make them stick on the raw pots but I don't think that's a factor. I feel a bit like I've fallen off a horse and I'm reluctant to climb back on. It is discouraging to produce so many mediocre pots. Hard to sell...hard to even look at.
I am excited by several slips in the salt; I've been searching for a surface that is more 'satin' than orange peel and glass and I think I've got a couple now. I've always known what I want from the salt...the wood is the challenge that I laid out for myself. I always knew that if wood alone didn't seem interesting that I'd salt both chambers. I'm not sure if this is the moment to make that change. Rudi thinks I should switch, but he's an engineer....and I'm an artist. Eventually he's right, but I usually take a different route to that same conclusion. I'm not sure if that's creativity or stubborness.

27 October 2008

Palin Nation

As I write this, the republican faithful are gathering in the park just a block from LibertyTown and two from my home. I just took a walk around the perimeter, vaguely uneasy that people would think I was there to support her (NOT!). I headed out with my red Nationals' baseball cap until I realized that that is the color of the day (or else pink). Obama was here a few weeks ago, so there is a certain balance in our world. It is hard to believe that anyone could possibly think that she is fit to serve, and it is hard not to be depressed by the fact that so many do. (And they are all here, right outside my door!).
The best news to report is that I hardly recognized any one in line, and the few I did know were no surprise at all. I'm not staying for her speech; I'd rather be in my studio, getting ready for winter, which seems to be coming quickly this year.

26 October 2008

Nicky's Garden

My pottery sits on the edge of Claremont farm in Caroline County, Virginia. This gazebo with it's bamboo roof will whistle if the wind is right. The gourds add to the magic of this shelter in the middle of the garden.

Remedy: Feta, Eggplant and Onion

I spent many hours in front of my computer yesterday, looking at 500 or so images as I finalized my decisions for the Cape Cod Museum of Art's exhibition "Clay: Cape Cod Potters" to be held next February and March. I enjoyed looking at the many ways we use clay to express ourselves and I was surprised at the high level of most of the work submitted. It will be a good show. My brain was cooked by the end of the day, and only a Parthenon pizza baked by Tony and served by Irini would revive me. That's special sauce in the corner. A beer or two always helps, too (not pictured).

22 October 2008

V.T.B. Vase pt. 3

If your still watching the vase that I made while doing a demo a few weeks back, here is the finished piece. It is the light colored pot on the second shelf from the bottom. Below are some closer views.

I fired it in the second chamber, where salt is introduced as the kiln approaches temperatures over 2000 degrees. I brushed a cobalt/iron slip over the little fish stamps and they show up quite nicely. Rappahanock Bluefish - a rare local delicacy!

I stamped the rim to add a little extra something to it. I like old commemorative pots and I sometimes write inside and outside of my own.

Make sure that you come back and visit LibertyTown...wonderful things are being made there every day!

21 October 2008

Some of My New Favorites

A Tale of Two Chambers

Here's a basic report:
I'm still a bit lost re: the wood chamber. It has me baffled. I'll write more about that tomorrow. The salt chamber has all kinds of prizes. My mood swings between the two.

Wood chamber / front stack



Salt chamber / front stack



Salt chamber / back stack

20 October 2008

First Glance

This isn't a brilliant photo, but at least you can see that the pots are still standing. The little bit that I can see looks quite promising. I've been beating myself up since Saturday because I know I blew up a big sculpture and I'm hoping that it hasn't taken too many others with it. Tonight's preview has me excited again. Many of you will empathize with the roller coaster of emotions that occurs when you unload a kiln. Join me for the best part of the ride tomorrow.

19 October 2008


2 chambers.
16 pounds of salt.
20 hour firing.
12 hours of sleep.

I'm happy to report that ol' #5 went very smoothly. Jay and Rabah took the nighttime shift and once again did an admiral job of coaxing the slow rise that is essential to the care and feeding of my raw fired pots. I had a few fitful hours of sleep and then was joined by Beth and Matt who soldiered on for the rest of the day. It continued to be perfect weather...warm in the sun and 60 in the shade.

The rhythms and pace of the kiln have remained pretty regular, which gives me confidence as I continue to fiddle and tweak it.
(sounds like an English pub: "lets have a pint at the Fiddle and Tweak")

The bottom of the wood chamber seems much improved. I need to rebuild the collection box between the salt chamber and the chimney. I somehow blew up the big sculpture in the salt chamber!?! That's been bugging me ever since. I'm staying away today. Feeling pretty brain dead so I'm looking after some household chores, drinking good tea and watching a little football.

I'll bring you a sneak peek tomorrow. Unloading is Tuesday. Here's hoping!

Log book: before.

Log book: after.

Miss Ellie Bird, presiding.

Beth and Matt stoking the 2nd chamber.

17 October 2008

It's Firin' Time!

No time for photos. Ignition is at 9pm. I've got 20 - 24 hours of fire to look forward to. I'll report in tomorrow night. Go Red Sox!

Salt Chamber : Loaded

I'm headed out this morning to finish bricking up the 'wickets' (that's the kiln doors, for those of you on the west side of the Atlantic. Then back home to rustle up some food and drink before lighting up at 9PM this evening. I have lots of new ideas in this kiln and I'll continue to be a little anxious until Tuesday's unloading.
Siting on the bagwall is a sculptural piece.

15 October 2008

Wood Chamber: Loaded

There were several comments about the bottom of this chamber being empty, and, of course, Michael Kline had it figured right. I've only fired this kiln 4 times and I have struggled to get heat to the bottom. It is a very tall chamber (6') and I worry that I'll never solve it. This is the first two chamber kiln I've built and I still have lots to learn.
I did open the bag wall and lower the packing place for firing #3 (the 'Kelvin' firing'*), but all it did was drop all the ash on the bottom shelf and it ended up even colder. I would be happy to hear suggestions if any of you have any ideas.
Today I'm getting out to the studio early and will begin to load the salt chamber.
(* During the night time shift, Paul and Bill managed to switch the pyro reading from Fahrenheit to Kelvin! It was more than a little confusing until we figured it out.)

13 October 2008


I got a late start today after 2 meetings in the morning at LibertyTown. Didn't make it out to the studio until mid-afternoon, but I've been eager to get underway with loading the kiln and it felt good to make a dent. My title today refers to the weather...when I dreamed of building this kiln in the middle of the woods, this is exactly how I thought it should be. Perfect autumn weather that is supposed to last for days and days. This first photo is the view out of the kiln shed.

Here's a layer by layer photo series of today's progress in the wood chamber. I am meticulous and pokey about loading, and I still put too many pots in (I know that they need space, but it's hard to overcome greed and the habits of packing a gas kiln for 25 years).

It's really the beginning of the firing, since I start to imagine the flame as it passes over the pots, thinking about where I want that flame to come in closest contact.

The first layer is mostly planters with no glaze inside so I can fire another pot inside. I want to make lids one day and turn them into saggers.