Thursday, September 10, 2009
A pretty good firing this week
My kiln shut down by itself three times during Tuesday's firing, which is enough to make me very crazy. (There is one very potty-mouthed entry in this firing's kiln log ... ) I suspect the problem is the pilot light blowing out and the thermocouple shutting down the gas supply. Anyway, I'll figure it out one of these days, but in the meantime it makes for a small prayer every time I enter the studio to check first the on the state of the flame and second (and late in the firing) on the state of the cones.
This time, three shutdowns happened along the way, all of them after I had done the body and glaze reduction at around cone 012. I caught each one as I checked the firing, re-lit the burners each time and didn't lose much heat. When it shut down the final time, at about cone 10.5, it was time to end the firing anyway, so I did.
All of this technical bushwa is to explain my tenuous relationship with the glaze-firing stage of pot-making. Early on, I learned to fire a wood kiln with Dan Finnegan and other friends. But I never fired a gas-fueled kiln before this one. I began to learn how to fire this kiln six or seven years ago more or less by myself, with some early and critical help from local landscaper and sometime potter Angela Rose. I've refined the process since the beginning, but, as you see, it still gives me problems. So I'm ... ummm ... less than confident of the process.
Also, as all potters know, it takes a number of firings to know how specific glazes react with specific kilns and firing schedules. My early efforts were dreadful. But things have improved in the past several years. This summer, firing every two weeks, a sort of rhythm developed and I've produced pots that I like a great deal.
The past two or three firings have begun to show me that combining my three Shino glazes can result in some lovely things. I am in many ways a frustrated wood-firer, still in love with the random and uncontrollable action of flame and ash on clay and glaze, but I am without access right now to a reasonable wood kiln. These three Shinos, poured over one another, spattered, trickled, flooded, rivuleted ... and combined in some instances with an ash celadon poured over them ... can create an otherworldly landscape. They crackle, they crawl, they trap carbon and they color each other. The Shinos work especially well on my teabowls. I've loved teabowls since an early workshop with Phil Rogers, and I've made hundreds, maybe thousands. The randomness of the glaze needs, I think, a less than tight and symmetrical teabowl. So I cut my rims after the first pull, I often facet the walls either diagonally or vertically and push them out on the wheel. Taken altogether, several of these teabowls that came out of this week's firing show that the combination of imprecise glaze application and wonky pot-making can work pretty well.
I do like what came out this week, in spite of the uncertainty from hour to hour of whether the kiln is firing. Or not.