The first firing of this little wood kiln went pretty well. There were a few good pots, a lot of mediocre pieces and some interesting things to look at. Sure, I can say I wasn’t expecting any super-fantastic results, but honestly, unloading this firing was a “learning” experience in many ways. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, as I’ve never done a Cone 5 firing in a wood kiln (intentionally anyway…). There aren’t a lot of other clay artists doing Cone 5 wood firing, especially in this type of wood kiln, so I really wanted to investigate it.
There were at least 6 different clay bodies in the kiln that I thought would be interesting in a Cone 5 wood firing. I mixed up various batches of the local “Brickyard Red” clay, my backyard clay and some other California clays including mostly Newman Red, Muddox, and Lincoln Fire clay. The front of the kiln got up to cone 5 and the back (chimney) got up to about cone 1 or 2. I’m really happy about performance of the kiln, especially considering it was the first firing and excess moisture from the masonry can really hinder the temperature from rising. The whole firing took about 18 hours.
Figure 1: Here is the kiln “unbricked,” after the firing.
Figure 2: Booty from the first firing
The majority of pieces fired in the kiln were flower pots, planters and other “peasant-wares” that I was willing to sacrifice for the sake of an experimental firing. I had a few new things I’ve been working on as well, including some bonsai trays and wall pieces. The pots that turned out well are now available to purchase for reasonable prices at Mad River Gardens in Arcata.
Figure 3: All these pieces were stacked in the chimney.
I was able to stack quite a few pieces in the chimney of this kiln, as I’ve done with many other kilns. The area inside the chimney is not typically used as a stacking space in most kilns but I’ve been able to refine this technique through years of designing, building and firing kilns. I’m usually pretty happy with the results as I don’t expect a whole lot from it, but it can significantly enlarge the kiln while making the overall firing a lot more efficient.
The next firing will be an old fashioned, rip-roaring, full blast Cone 12+, blanketing the pieces in flashy surfaces and natural wood-ash glazes. My clay work hasn’t focused much on this for a few years, so it’s time to revisit it. Hopefully, the results of the next firing will be good, because I’m planning a public kiln-opening that coincides with the North Coast Open Studios on June 4 and 5th. The kiln will be opened and unloaded at 10 a.m. on June 4th.
Below is an example of what is possible at higher temperatures. The surface of this piece has been painted by the fire and is a result of the natural wood ash glaze that happened during the firing. Hopefully, the next firing will have similar results.
Figure 4: Vase circa 2005 w/ native clay slip & natural wood ash glaze. Side-fired on sea shells.