Wednesday, 27 January 2016

And the ash and dust settle.

The new (28 degree), kiln has just completed its second firing. We fired for 4 days and 3 nights a total of 77 hour firing. I was assisted by Mr. Parry , with a couple of welcome night shifts from Mr. Gray and Mr. Bird.

 The kiln took about 11 hours to pack. We had some large Pots which were side fired from Henry Bird one of the School's final year students.

The kiln was reduced very heavily for about 12 hours around 1000 C with some amazing carbon spider webs forming over the work which were very transitory, being only visible for 10 minutes at a time. The kiln would change atmosphere and the webs would disappear only to form again a little later. They are very hard to photograph due to the inability of my camera to cope with the glare, but they can just be seen in the image below in the cooler gap just below the visible shelf on the right.

We had the first snow of the year during the Saturday night with minus temperatures, which made sleeping in the van interesting. Fine once wrapped up in sleeping bag and duvets but challenging getting in and out.

We finished the firing at 2pm on the 4th day. Had lunch and packed away the kitchen and went home for a rest. After 4 days of cooling the kiln was opened. Steve Parry had a tumble stack of handle-less cups on the front shelf which had moved off there wadding, so, the last job of the firing was to go into the firebox with a long iron rod and lift each sticky cup and place it in the firebox. They can be seen in the image below as they were when the door was unbricked.

Here are a few examples of my pieces which came from the firing.

Firebox bucket form:
Bottle with attitude #1

Bottle with attitude #2

Second row bucket form:

Several pieces went straight into a short exhibition called Synergies, held in the Loughborough University School of the Arts gallery. The show ends on Friday 29th January.

Below are 2 of the 3 large jars by Henry out for semester 1 assessment.

All in all its been a busy start to 2016 . I'm also pleased that I've been accepted to show at Art in Clay and Hatfield in August and Farnham in November as well as showing at Ceramics in Charnwood in May, Warwickshire open studios in July and Ceramics in Southwell in September. I'm off up to stoke tomorrow to collect materials for mixing up my next batches of clay in preparation for the next firing in May, and so the cycle begins again :-)

Friday, 8 January 2016

Happy new year!

A little late I know. First blog of 2016 and preparation is well underway for my first firing next week and as is traditional, the temperatures are set to plunge, so it's going to be in minus degrees sleeping in the van brrrrrr! The kiln is cleaned out, all the pots made, Wadding mixed, cone packs dry, still a bit of glaze to apply.

 I've managed to keep most of the wood dry enough through the wet weather so hopefully all systems go.

Packing on Wednesday which will be a long day, and then firing Thursday morning through till Sunday lunchtime (ish).

 I've also cut a whole load of new props. Luxury!

Here are a few pieces awaiting the firing.

I had a very enjoyable visit to The Ceramic studio in Warwickshire just before Christmas where I was invited to spend a day demonstrating making one of my large vessels.

I've also been experimenting with a small wood fired kiln. This was originally built to fire to high earthenware temperatures, but also fires very easily to stoneware producing some good flashing. This is an ongoing exploration for this year, potentially using some of the local red clays from Charnwood to make with.

I'll update after the firing :-)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Autumn has arrived

It's been far too long since my last update but plenty has been going on.

The end of August saw a firing in the Wysing anagama kiln, it had been about 18 months since the last firing, and it was good to get down there. Such a great place for a kiln although it is not in the best of conditions and firing it is somewhat like setting out to sea in a boat full of holes. The results were good though, and it was a good test for all the new slips that I have been using on my new work. 

September was fairly quiet, although I managed to get another load of wood Up to Loughborough for the kiln here. Looking to fire in January for a 4 day firing. October has been busy with the first "innovations in ceramic art", show at the guild hall in Cambridge. 

An excellent show which hopefully will be repeated. Last weekend was the annual Oxford ceramic fair, again, another great show. This weekend (the last in October), I'm showing as part of the Warwickshire open studio's Autumn art show at Warwick Arts Centre. This is my last show of this year, just as the  applications come in for next year. I'm now starting to make work for the firing in January, which is great. Haven't been making for a few months and it's a joy to get back to the wheel and start to make again with all the anticipation of seeing the finished fired pieces :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A little bit of TLC

I delivered a firings worth of wood down to the Wysing Arts Centre anagama kiln last year in preparation for a firing. However, while there, noticed a brick  had fallen out of the arch above and just to the left of the firebox. On Tuesday Mr Parry and I finally got time to carry out the repair. It's been over a year since we fired this kiln this time, although we've been firing it fairly regularly for the last 18 years! This realisation came as a bit of a shock as we chatted, wandering through the beautiful wooded grounds of the arts centre having completed the repairs; a conversation along the lines of "these were just saplings when we first fired the kiln", followed by expletive exclamations!

                                 Above: the tree keep, deep in the woods

Above: The walnut tree that was about a foot high in 1997

As a result of the brick dropping out, the arch bricks around it had sagged slightly, so, the first job was to brace these and push the arch back up, Old school with a stiff sheet of ply and wooden supports, gently tapping the supports tight to lift the bricks above, slowly we managed to raise the hot face arch back up so that it matched the secondary arch above it.

Above is the  hole in the hot face arch from the inside. The protruding strip of brick is a patch job which we did in the same area about 5 years ago.

Once the hot face arch was braced we removed some of the loosened brick around the hole and relayed them, hard packing any gaps with refractory castable so the arch was once again put under the right sort of tension.

The finished repair, not particularly pretty, but should keep the kiln stable for a few more firings.

We are aiming to fire Late August followed by a second firing of the New Loughborough kiln a few weeks later, it's shaping up to be a busy Autumn :-)

Friday, 29 May 2015

First firing of the 28 degree anagama .....done

It's been a while since I updated this blog, but in my defense it's been quite a busy time :-). I finally finished building the kiln mid April, which left three weeks for the insulation layer to dry before my proposed first firing date. Luckily the weather played the game and it was warm and dry, which allowed the kiln to dry out thoroughly. Below is a continuation of building images from my last post. I had a little more mechanisation to help me with this kiln in the form of a brick saw and a small cement mixer. much easier to cut precise bricks with a saw rather than hammer and bolster and even with a cement mixer it took several days to reconstitute, remix and lay the insulation from the old kiln.

One of my main considerations when knocking down the old kiln and building this new one was to build a kiln which could be packed in a day rather than three and fired in three days rather than four. It is also designed to be an extreme kiln with lots of contact between the wood and the clay with the steep stepping (28 degrees from firebox floor to base of the chimney), generating turbulence to promote ash build up on the work and a strong flow through the chamber. Below is short film (just under 5 mins), which documents the packing and the firing of this kiln.


I'm really pleased with the results of this firing and excited about making new work for the next firing at the end of the summer; hopefully ready to exhibit at the Autumn shows. A huge thanks to  Steve Parry for once again working alongside me to the bitter end, also many thanks to Carl Gray for taking on the first night shift, also to Jo Keogh and Ed Penn for stoking the first day.

It's now getting towards the time to start preparing for the summer shows. This year so far I'll be showing at:

 Earth and Fire  Rufford Abbey north Nottinghamshire 26th - 28th June. Demostrating 1pm Friday 26th

Warwickshire open studios with Claire Brierley 27th June - 12th July (demonstrating Sunday 12th July).

Innovations in Ceramic Art Cambridge guild hall 10th -11th October (I'll be giving a presentation).

Oxford Ceramics Fair St. Edwards School, Oxford 24th-25th October.