23 May 2011

Firing Rapture

First Chamber...10 lbs. salt
So many things could have been taken as omens these past few days...the license plate I showed you last or the Chinese fortune cookie that lacked a fortune of any kind. It might have been the huge turkey vultures that roosted atop the chimney while I mowed the grass below. It could even been the giant Christian revival that drew more than 500 cars to a farm that I pass to get to my studio (Bob Jones was there...run away.....). 
If I actually believed in omens, then I would have had to pick a positive one because the firing turned out very well indeed. Of course perfection isn't the issue, but each of the different areas that I hoped to improve...did! Good heat in the bottom of both chambers and a lot more color (i.e. better reduction) in both and that was achieved by using the active damper rather than the passive. I'm sure that they will both ultimately have a part to play, but I quite deliberately ignored the passive entirely during the first chamber's 20 hours and used it only some during the 2nd.
Saturday night I drove out to take out a couple layer of bricks in the arch...dark as could be in the middle of the woods with all the pots tinkling and pinging a sweet song. I sat listening for a while and my thoughts jumped from my own excitement/anticipation to thinking of Ray Finch, and of Michael Cardew, all my friends, and all of the potters in history who have also stood by their too hot kilns, hoping for the best, prepared for the worst and getting it right more often than we rightfully should. Opening up a kiln can mean some questions are answered and new ones raised. Pots can sometimes exceed expectation and others disappoint. 
 I may have written this down before, but it's one of my favorite stories about my days at Winchcombe. After a particularly successful firing I got bold enough to ask Ray what he thought of the firing and after a customary tug on his meager beard he replied that 'every firing was a disappointment'! I've thought of that for more than 30 years now, knowing just he meant. Unless every pot is beyond improvement (which can never be) there is an almost instant recognition of the pots that fall short no matter the reason. Even during that first peek which gave me a good idea that it was a success I was registering the good and bad. And after a little post firing let down I'll be hard at work to solve another of the puzzle pieces.
 I'm still sorting and rubbing pots down. It takes a while to really see individual pieces and decipher each story. The birds are also amazing but I didn't get good photos . I'll be in my photo studio soon.
I love this candlestick. The salt really softens the amber ash nicely.
Second Chamber . Cone 10 tipping at bottom and some color!  Totem still standing. Photo is washed out. 


cookingwithgas said...

Yum,yum,yum,yum-tasty as heck!
Ohgo for it- tasty as hell!

Dennis Allen said...

Mighty nice Dan.

Liberty Stoneware said...

Oh, Dan, everything looks wonderful! I'm sorry I didn't get to make it up for the firing! I appreciate your reflection on listening to the sounds of the kilns and thinking of all of the potters who have done the same. And I love the story from Winchcombe, whether or not it's not the first time I've heard it! It's true! I do the same thing, find even the small disasters and plow forward to the next kiln!

gz said...

No, every firing is one to learn from.
Looks good. Lucky you

Unknown said...

They look wonderful! I love the description of opening the kiln and taking stock...nice to know we are not alone on the emotional roller coaster :)

Betsy C said...

Oh, they look beautiful. Can't wait to see them up close in person ... I love the warm rich colors.

Barbara Rogers said...

Having watched your blog for several months, I'm pleased that you're sharing the emotions of opening that kiln...the potter's Christmas morning disappointments and surprised satisfaction. I don't have access to wood kilns, but enjoy seeing what glazes can do in the kiln.
Request pictures of the birds, please.

doug Fitch said...

Fantastic :-)

Hannah said...

hey hey hey!!!!
Looks fab, looks fab and i know that waiting by the hot kiln thing!!!! I just did it! Sorry lots of exclamations, I fired my wood kiln for the first time today. Am exhausted and excited and well I may have trashed a whole pile of pots but I am thrilled and jittery and can't sleep even though i'm so tired!
Speak soon and congratulations on the fab new pots.

Kathleen said...

I am in awe. Could see those birds scattered in a field in a 'Sculpture Park' sort of way. Would love to have heard the sound of the beautiful pieces cooling down. Fantastic colors! Great job.

Ron said...

Looks great Dan!!!

Quietly Otaku said...

wow amazing work, I must say that for me the final firing is an incredibly nervous time. I actually think that its the time when more can go wrong that any other.

On the other hand your right you can find some pieces exceed your expectations but if you weren't able to learn something new from each firing then I guess that would be the real disappointment.