The kiln I fired on Friday went very well, and there are things I can learn from. I am glad that I am doing my last firings over a few weeks, so that I can make any improvements or slight changes that I need to. For example, the Shino I am using needs to be applied very thinly to the insides of functional wares, so as it doesn’t crawl. However, on the outsides and on larger pots it can be heavily applied, so as to get more carbon trapping.
The Phil Rogers Tenmoku I made using willow ash is lovely, and works great with stamps in the clay. I will be using it more in the next firing.
Where the Shino changes from bright, firey orange to the carbon gray, it is almost as if the are two different glazes on the pot. The colour combination is great.
Last week I made some iron slip using river Soar clay and red iron oxide. I brushed this onto some salad bowls which were unloaded from the communal bisque over the weekend. Sadly, the slip shrank much more than the St Thomas clay body, and so it pulled away.
I have brushed it all off, and after some research in books and asking around in the studio, I have decided to calcine some of the iron slip – grind it down and fire to about 600. This will then mix into a 50/50 mixture, to try and lower it’s shrinkage rate. However, it might be too late for me to use this slip this term.
Inspired by Jeremy Stewards mug shapes, I have been trying to throw some mugs which express the joy of making. Using slips and stamps, I have been decorating them ready for ash glazes. A lot of them are currently drying ready to be bisqued on Monday. They are shapes that I really enjoy throwing, squeezing them in to create character and life. struggled with handle placement at first, but then settled for a handle which started about 2/3rds of the way up, and came in at the foot.
After gradually making a stock of the bowl shapes I have shown in previous posts, I wanted to start making a set of bowls which allowed me to use the stamps I have been making. I went from a quick sketch I took of a tea bowl by Helen Pincombe at the Anthony Shaw Collection at CoCA. The tea bowl was a squat, angular shape, but something about the curves and angles really resonated with me. I thought if I could stretch that shape out, it would translate well into a soup or salad bowl.
Taken from her Guardian Obituary –
“She always strove for strength and simplicity of form, and is remembered particularly for her domestic ware, garden pots and individual bowls – a form she returned to again and again. She developed an elegant style of brush work, and always worked in stoneware, with temoku and grey glazes and dark slips. ”
It’s a shape I found quite hard to throw, not sure how to go about getting the undercut right, whether to leave that totally to turning or try and leave a gap when throwing. I now have about 10 individual sized ones (1lb) in the bisque firing, and 6 larger ones (1lb 4oz) that have been slipped and stamped. My one concern is that the footring isn’t big enough for my liking. I found it hard to leave enough clay at the base to turn a decent sized footring, so they are quite short. I shall have another look at them on Monday and see how I feel.
These have an iron slip made from river Soar clay on the outside, and a white slip (50% China Clay 50% Hyplas Ball Clay) on the inside. I am hoping that this will have lovely effects on my ash glazes. I have yet to try them out.
After looking at a lot of Jeremy’s work over the weekend, I have been thinking more and more about the shapes. They have very accentuated curves, creating a unique look. The bases are often splayed out, making the pot robust and grounded. Any waist the pot has is often really narrow, or a belly really rotund, making caricatured figures.
(the photos below are pinched from http://jeremysteward.co.uk )
I love the shapes of the milk jugs, they are so full of character and energy. The combination of earthy salt glazes and curvy shapes make for a fun but homely look. It shows through the work that the making process was enjoyable and expressive, no line is too straight, and no curve is too controlled. The pots are lively, and yet not contrived or saccharine, the muted colours make them real and physical. Their handmade qualities are evident, and are at the forefront of each piece. I think its important to keep personal traits evident in handmade things, and not try to make things too uniform, otherwise they may as well be made by machine. After all, is it not the fact that it was made by an actual pair of hands the thing that makes the handmade special.
I finally got around to photographing and looking at the work properly which came out of the kiln last week. A lot of it is very gray, from the heavy reduction, so I’m currently looking into some more iron-rich glazes, tenmokus and shinos. Hopefully this will help bring some warmth to my work too, as at the moment the colours I have are quite cool and clean.
I’m happy with my elm nuka, a solid, creamy white, which contrasts well with the reds of the clay body, especially around foot rings. The nuka is also quite resilient to being over fired, which it was in the last firing.
I’m really enjoying modifying pots at their leather hard stage, faceting and trimming and stamping to create surfaces for the glazes. Ash glazes respond really well to having little ledges and grooves to run into, accentuating their flowing nature in the kiln. Sadly in the last firing their flowing nature was a little too strong, and some larger bowls were ruined by being stuck to the shelves with glaze.
Early on Saturday morning, I drove up to Herefordshire to see the firing of a salt kiln at Wobage Farm Workshops. I meant to take photos of the day, but as always with these kinds of things, I was too absorbed in the experience to remember. I did manage to take a photo of some sheep in the late afternoon as I was wandering round the site.
It’s not a photo of the lovely Pheonix kiln but it does give a little taste of the place. The firing was for work by the people who attended the evening classes. There were about 18 people around over the course of the day, and we fired the kiln in 1.5 hour shifts, with two of us at the kiln at a time. The whole day was a community event, people brought food and drink to share, and although the shifts were for 2 people to be at the kiln, there were often at least 5 people around, chatting and drinking tea. It was a surprise for me how relaxed and happy everyone was about firing the wood kiln. My previous impressions have been that wood firing is labour intensive, stressful, and unreliable, so it was nice to be shown that this isn’t true.
The kiln itself is a Phoenix design wood kiln, and below I have stolen a photo from a past students blog who also helped fire this kiln.
We fired steadily with smaller bits of wood to reach 1000c at about midday, before going into reduction, using larger, flat planks of wood. Then the salted wood was used, and after that, salted wood with salt packs placed on the end. I have never been a part of a salt or soda firing before, so this was a big learning curve for me. Before Saturday, I felt like wood kilns were a looming problem of my future. I love the results and ideas behind wood firing, but had been told that it is difficult and costly. The Phoenix kiln at Wobage costs less than £10 of wood per firing, which is very low. And although it is labour intensive (compared to gas or electric kilns), that’s all part of the process. Over the day I had so many interesting conversations, so much interesting food, and felt so welcome. I really enjoyed the whole experience. I did put a bowl in the top of the kiln with some of Jeremy’s slips and a shino glaze, so I am excited to see how that comes out. Maybe I will be a salt-glaze convert.