What an exhausting day yesterday was, nearly twenty hours spent chucking wood into a kiln, is it any wonder that I look like a mad man? I had great help from Adam and Ali, friends from Plymouth Museum. Unfortunately I couldn't find my camera amongst the chaos of the workshop while they were here, so didn't get a chance to get a shot of them in action.
But I found it later on to take this shot of Marky Mark and me.
MM came along after work and stayed stoking with me until the bitter end, which was about 3.30 this morning - we were(and still are) completely knackered. I couldn't do this without him, he's a gem - particularly if you consider he only has one small pot in the kiln.
So now the wait. I've learned not to have any particular expectations and have tried not to think about what might be hidden behind the brick door - I just hope it's going to be alright and that I'll have some pots for the forthcoming shows - if not, I'm in big trouble. But this is the risk of firing pots in naked flame, it could go either way.
I think we did everything right last night though, dry kiln, dry wood and some experiments with the pack, aimed at achieving a more even temperature between the top and the bottom of the chamber. I've sometimes overfired the pots at the top, in order to get the bottom ones hot enough. This time, the temperature was much more even throughout, so it would seem that the alterations to the kiln worked - I'll know tomorrow when I unbrick the door with excited trepidation.
Without wishing to sound too nerdy, my kiln is designed for the heavy reduction firing of stoneware. I'm trying to fire earthenware, with a small amount of reduction. It has to be stoked gently up to temperature, to avoid heavy reduction which causes earthenware pots to go dark brown and bubbly - ie, chuck too much wood on at once, you'll get lots of thick black smoke and brown pots. It's tempting sometimes though in the middle of the night to pile in loads of wood in desperation for a quick rise in temperature, but we managed to keep our patience in spite of being exhausted.
So after getting to bed(sofa)at some time after 4.30 am, today got off to a slow start - lots of cups of tea and a chat with Ron on Skype. I then walked to work along the beautiful Devon lanes, bathed in scorching sunshine.
The wild Dog Roses are in full bloom in the hedgerow - this picture's blurred, but you'll get the idea of the delicate beauty of these flowers and I think you'll understand why I'm often inspired to use their image on the surface of my pots.
The farmers have been busy making hay while the sun shines. The distant hills, Dartmoor.
The grasses are all flowering at the moment, I'm fortunate not to suffer from hay fever, but the pollen even made my nose a bit sniffy today.
This is a caterpillar 'tent'. When I was a kid I used to breed butterflies and moths in glass fronted cases. I'd even take them away on family holidays and we'd have to spend our time scouring the countryside, looking for the relevant foodstuff. I eventually got freaked out by looking at too many magnified photographs of these bugs and gave up!
Here's the end of the track that leads to my workshop. When I got to work, I felt too tired to do very much other than tidy up a bit and drink tea on the bench. It didn't help much that there was a big brick box of a kiln at 400C, sitting there like a giant storage heater.
Big day tomorrow then, very happy, or very sad, time will tell. For now, goodnight all