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.

9 comments:

ang said...

wow thats some good looking shino's and lovely application..

traceybroome@mindspring.com said...

What ang said! WOW!!

Hollis Engley said...

Yes, you two, it looks pretty good, doesn't it?

Winston said...

What lovely textures! I'm a beginner potter and I didn't know you could get glaze to crackle like that!

mengley said...

Beautiful stuff pops.

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, Winston. Some of the Shino glazes crackle like that when they're applied thickly. The carbon-trap one that i use is especially good at that. And then it traps carbon in the cracks. It's working pretty well on these pots.
And thanks, Marco. Good pots, huh?

paul jessop said...

Hey Hollis, you must be very pleased they are some very fine looking pots. some of the best I have ever seen.
I've not used my Gas kiln for a year now, but one of my burners kept going out as well. nightmare so to get these results is just amazing.

FetishGhost said...

I really like what came out too. Those are gorgeous!

Hollis Engley said...

Thanks, guys. Yes, Paul, the shutdowns are maddening, but fortunately didn't seem to make a difference in the end, at least this time. I do like these pots. And sold a number of them today at a craft show on a sunny day in Charlestown, next door to Boston.