Taming of the Kiln Workshop

This year a keen group of 7 potters gathered at our pottery to learn the secrets of loading and firing our wood fired kiln, with the added bonus of learning soda glazing techniques. I had earlier sent out information about clay and slip choices so that the students would come prepared. On the Friday before loading four of the students came to finish spraying slips and glazing – its a fiddly business but the layering of slips over the clay body is where the richest effects come from.
On the Saturday we cracked into the loading with pots getting sorted, wadding made, props cleaned and a carefully orchestrated dance of pots leading from the studio into the kiln. We ramped stacked some shelves, used salting cups on others, shell wadded the throat zone pots and made sure the bungs were straight and true (not forgetting to get the cones in).
On Sunday the kiln was lit and we settled into the firing rhythm of hauling wood, stoking the kiln, eating and drinking, rotating the stoking crews, watching the kiln and checking our progress against the kiln log. I gave explanations about how the wood kiln works, what the dampers do, signs that indicate the kiln is on the right track (I don’t use a pyrometer) and touched on topics around maintenance and kiln housekeeping. 12 hours later and the firing was done, a happy but tired bunch of students could relax and head home with a long week of waiting to see the fruits of their labours.
The Saturday of unloading day had appalling weather, unlike the firing weekend, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the students as the kiln was drawn. The similes of delight from the students as their pots emerged from the kiln was great to see. The occasional quizzical look (what did I put on that pot?) and the odd co-joined collaboration all added to the excitement. Well done to all the students as the firing was excellent and the range of effects was a great demonstration of the beauty possible in the unique combinations of clay, fire and soda.