Monday, June 25, 2012

Wood Mouse and Kiln Firing

Brenda on top of the wood pile
Wood mouse spotted a Joseph Sand's kiln on Saturday night! I say "wood mouse" because I felt like a small mouse scrabbling around on top of the gargantuan pile of wood, high off the ground. I did a 6 p.m to midnight shift on Saturday, getting the kiln up to 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though the air cooled down, I was still really warm working in front of the kiln and moving wood around. It felt so good to come home, peel off the sweaty dirt-covered clothes and shower!
Joseph's kiln quietly chugging away
Prior to the kiln firing, I recently returned from New Jersey where I was wrapping up the research end of my kiln project. Now to go through the 10,000 + images and compare/make sense of the whole thing! One of my favorite pieces of kiln furniture from a site near Ringoes, New Jersey from the 18th-century is this little gem pictured below. It is a triangular piece that I have seen images of similar pieces being made historically in the Raeren area of Germany. Marks on pieces where these are used show they were placed on rims of jars, as well as bases. Looks like they were cut out of a flattened slab of clay, as there are knife/cut marks on the sides.
Kiln furniture piece from Ringoes, NJ. Courtesy, New Jersey State Museum.
In other exciting news, I start the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts' Summer Institute this week. Their focus this year is the Southern Backcountry, one of my favorite topics. My posts may be a bit spotty over the next month, but I will try to keep you updated and share some of my adventures!

Monday, June 18, 2012


Show and tell at the seminar
 I have been gallivanting for several days now. Last week I was in Virginia doing some research and then presented at the 2012 Virginia Decorative Arts Seminar. That was a great time, and always good to have great conversation and see great pots!
A herd of bud vases headed for the kiln
 Before I left for Virginia I dropped off some pots at Joseph Sand's, and will be doing a kiln shift this coming weekend. 
A deceptive mound

The kiln floor
An adventure on Sunday included romping out to see a 19th-century kiln site near Harrisonburg, Virginia. The Morris kiln site operated from 1872-1902 and was a fascinating round kiln that looked to have arches in the exterior perimeter of the base.
Kiln furniture embedded in the kiln floor

Arches on the perimeter of the base of the kiln
More to come!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Connecticut Kilns and North Carolina Connections

Me holding a piece of kiln furniture from the Connecticut kiln site. Private collection.
I have been on the road for the last few days looking at a kiln collection in Brooklyn, New York and just today seeing a collection from a kiln site in Bloomfield, Connecticut. While I work on permissions for sharing photos from the Brooklyn site, I am very excited to share photos from my Connecticut visit.
Decorated bottle fragment from Bloomfield, Connecticut site. Private collection.
If you might remember from late last year, I posted about my visit to the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, North Carolina to see a collection from a kiln site explored there. The potters who operated that early kiln were originally from Connecticut. The reason why this kiln site in Connecticut was so incredibly exciting (in a nerdy sort of way) was the fact that so much of the kiln furniture was so similar to the North Carolina material. Connecticut connections!
Mark on bottom of jug fragment showing where kiln furniture was. Private collection.

Piece of kiln furniture with mark showing where the edge of a piece rested on top of it. Private collection.

How the jug would have sat on the bar-shaped piece of kiln furniture. Private collection.

Like the North Carolina kiln site where I speculated about how the bottles were stacked, this kiln site in Connecticut showed signs of similar bottle stacking methods. Like the North Carolina kiln furniture, there were round marks left on the bar-shaped kiln furniture which was shaped in the same fashion as the North Carolina kiln furniture:
Round marking left on kiln furniture. Note the pinched middle, similar to the North Carolina kiln furniture. Private collection.

Round mark and part of a bottle neck left on a bar-shaped piece of kiln furniture. Private collection.
The necks and handles of the jug fragments from the Connecticut kiln site also showed the same signs as the North Carolina kiln site that the bar-shaped kiln furniture rested across the top of the neck and handle.
Jug neck showing marks left from the kiln furniture. Private collection.

Jug neck and handle showing mark left and part of a piece of furniture. Private collection.
And, as usual, kiln floors and sections of the kiln are always exciting to see. There were several chunks of the kiln including this beautiful piece of what I think was a wall, with an incredible amount of melting and running:
Section of the kiln. Private collection.
It has been a great trip, I will try to get more up in the coming weeks and don't forget, if you're interested in Virginia earthenware, the 2012 Virginia Decorative Arts Seminar will be focusing on the topic and I will be presenting along with a great lineup of speakers next weekend! Check out the schedule and be sure to come!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pug Mill Adventure

Yesterday was quite an adventure when I went to the Penland area to pick up a pug mill. For those who may be less familiar with such beasts, a pug mill is used to reclaim clay, mix clay, add grog to a clay for making larger pieces and flowerpots, and can be used as an extruder of sorts, but I do not really intend to use it as an extruder. Pug mills generally weigh quite a lot. Particularly when it gets up to this size and is made with marine-grade steel which keeps it from rusting. When I arrived to my destination, I saw a wooden flight of stairs, down which the pug mill was going to need to come. There was another option too - a large hoist system with chains that could lower it off the porch and into the truck bed. I should add that getting to the pottery was fun too, as it was up on the mountainside above a river! For anyone who ever visited me when I lived in a little studio out in Jackson County, Kentucky, the driveway to that place was a cakewalk compared to getting here!
Moment of truth before going over the edge

This whole adventure would not have been able to be accomplished without the help of Michael Kline and his family coming down from Bakersville to help out. The physical and moral support was greatly appreciated! After a while of figuring and my knowledge of tying things up from watching an engineer who knows about those things for several years, we got it attached and chained, and with breath held, pushed it out off the porch to dangle above the ground.
Almost there!
It was slowly lowered into the bed of the truck and with a little pushing, dropped right where it rode all the way home after being strapped in. With having a farm and developing a pottery shop, there really is never a dull moment. Life is full of adventures though, right?
With a sigh of relief, the beast was strapped in and covered up for the ride home.
As a funny post script, you may notice the port-a-potty in the above photo. Well, we almost had another adventure when someone went to back the truck up, the port-a-potty almost got pushed over a cliff! Luckily that did not happen and no one was inside!