Experimenting

I may have mentioned in the last post about the eartherware wood and residual salt firing we were planning with Brenda Hornsby Heindl in her Olsen fast-fire kiln. It’s always interesting to fire kilns other than your own, it provides a different perspective and can teach you a thing or two. I feel like my Bourry Box is easier to fire, not as taxing on body, but also maybe not as responsive and harder to read… ? Still reflecting on that.
So, let’s see. Observations and things we learned:
It is not as easy-peasy to fire to cone 04 as we thought. When you are used to firing anywhere from 15 to 24 hours, you may think that :”Eh, we’ll be done by noon with this puppy!” -according to how the previous firings have gone. But then it drags on, and the bottom is not catching up to the top, and the pyrometer shows one thing but the cones are not moving and you wonder if they’re just too close to the edge of the shelf and you should have inched them inward when loading the kiln? And it’s freaking hot outside and the coals have to be raked out… And raked out again… And the bottom is still not catching up according to the pyrometer. But then – what’s that? Cone 06 is moving on the bottom, but 08 is still up on top. What the heck?! So you keep stoking, soaked with sweat and 10(?) hours later, decide to call it a day because it seems like MAYBE the temperature was reached because at least in one place cone 04 is down, and I mean DOWN and by golly we have already soaked for a few hours.
Piece of advice – do not enter such endeavor thinking it’s gonna be easy, ’cause wood firing, stoneware OR earthenware, is for those who enjoy to torture themselves with physical and mental exhaustion and uncertainty.

Let’s look at the results, shall we?

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Now that the kiln is unloaded we can say that overall, most of the kiln probably reached cone 06, 05. My clear glaze melted at those lower temps, but only where it was directly over the Earthen Red clay body. It’s still dry over the white and painted slips.

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Only on two bowls did it melt properly even on the slip. I think those were in close proximity to the cone pack with the downed cone 04.

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Brenda contemplating. She tested three different clay bodies, several slips and glazes and has a lot of information to sort through.

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Color variations. I was quite pleased with the flashing and clay body fluxing out (on some pots) – I would have been bummed out if everything came out dry and flat red.

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We even had one of Brenda’s pieces with melted wood ash, lovely color and sheen. Except it cracked – so, must have gotten too hot?
Brenda also got hold of some architectural earthenware which came out really nice – groggy texture, dark flashing – I immediately wanted to make something large and sculptural with it and fire it without any slips or glazes.

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However, there was a lot of dry fly ash everywhere as well.

I am going to attempt to re-fire most of the pots, to hopefully melt the dry glaze, and even out the bubbles on some of the pots and also to see if we would lose or keep the lovely flashing…
I would say that wood firing earthenware is not worth it, when you can get reliable results with an electric kiln, at just the push of a button…
…except for that magic of flashing that the wood kiln provides. And yes, we had a longish and hard firing, but it still did not take 24 hours… It’s definitely worth playing around with more. Planters, sculptural forms, pieces that can be stacked rim to rim, maybe some terra sig for slip – we’ll be experimenting again!
In the mean time I will utilize my electric kiln more and switch some of our work to low fire for good!
But that all will have to wait until I get back from the 2’nd European Woodfire Conference in Denmark, and a quick side trip to visit my folks in Estonia.
Happy experimenting to y’all – keep it fresh!

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