Thursday, 17 June 2010

Blimey that was hard work!

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


Anna said...

Really interesting discussion on wood firing earthenware (not nerdy at all). I have been curious about that. Hope you open the kiln and feel nothing but joy and see nothing but dollar signs! :)

ang said...

oooh the suspense!! hi marky mark you da man!!! and a big cheer for all your helpers it sounds like a wild ride....and i'm so glad the wood was dry that's just fighting a losing battle soon xx

Peter said...

Good luck with the firing, I guess you will have "butterflies" waiting for the opening of the kiln!

Anonymous said...

fingers crossed, everything crossed Tim

Anonymous said...

fingers crossed


Linda B said...

If you fire galena in reduction, do you get lead metal? No wonder it bubbles. Is it volatile?

Anonymous said...

Just been looking up some very similar 'caterpillar tents' for children I work with and we found they were ermin moths.
Good luck with the Kiln

Congresburypotter said...

Hope all your efforts pay off, and that you'll have some great work to take up to Rufford next week.

Ron said...

Hoping for the best firing yet!!

angihatspots said...

good luck Doug. Hoping for a really good 'kiln' moment for you. asd for galena in reduction firing, I once drank tea from a teapot at Wenford Bridge tea room and it was made by Michael Cardew. It had the most awful looking glaze on it -lots of bubbles and was probably a galena glaze. I did ask her if she would sell it to me but she knew what she had got there and refused. Its worth the trip to go and see these. teapots. Anyway good luck for the opening.

Michael Kline said...

Only best wishes for that which sits in that kiln!

paul jessop said...

Nice Post Doug. I love the way you keep trying to reach the ultimate goal of an excellent firing. I always think your there already mate. but good luck with this one. and the shows.
PS: the word verification thing is asking me to put in "rackshy"
I think that would be a great description of the England game last night.!!

doug Fitch said...

Hey thanks all - well some of it was great and some of it was horrible. Of course I saw the horrible stuff first! It always takes me a while to recover from losing the bad ones, before I see the good ones. Thanks for all your good wishes, much appreciated