Process and Kiln Building

This page is under construction, but I want to share some photos of how I make my work and the kiln I built in 2012.

Process


I make all of my pottery on an electric wheel. At this time, the electric wheel is just convenient for me to work with.
 Using a wood-firing kiln and salt glazing gives me the opportunity to use and learn about local clays, natural clay glazes, and raw materials. This is because the atmosphere of a wood-firing kiln can be very volatile, and less controllable than a gas or electric-fired kiln atmosphere. Natural ash and clay glazes work well in wood-firing atmospheres, but are not the only glazes that you can use. To learn more about the process of salt glazing, check out this blog post a made a few years ago.

In making the vases in the photo, I think about those final pieces and the colors, angles, and shapes
When I make pottery, I see the end result in my mind. I think a lot about function and how the vessel will work with the potential materials interacting with it (i.e. how flowers will sit in the vase, or how food will sit in a dish).


 I use a system of firing my pots called "single firing." This means that I do not bisque-fire my pots in order to glaze them. I use glazes with a heavy clay base so that it will adhere and work well with a green (or slightly damp) surface. So, I am basically putting moisture back into the vessels after I make them, which can be risky!

This more traditional method of glazing has always appealed to me because in studying historic ceramics, I knew that bisque firing was not employed by stoneware potters for centuries.

Dishes without decoration

Decorated dishes
For my decorations, I primarily do cobalt-blue slip trailed and painted designs. These designs come from a host of resources, but a lot of them come from my study of Southern pottery, including cobalt-blue decorations of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky.

 Loading the kiln is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, trying to figure out how to put all of the pots in the space and not have anything touching.

 When the kiln is loaded up, it usually looks something like the image above.
When it is done firing, the kiln looks like this image above!


Photo by Oliver Mueller Heubach

Kiln Building

In the summer of 2012, with support from a grant through the United Arts Council and Central Piedmont Regional Artists Hub Program, I embarked to build a 60-cubic foot wood-firing kiln. It was a lot of work, but the end result was totally worth it.


Photograph by Thomas Allen

Photograph by Thomas Allen
 Joseph Sand helped me put the foundation down and get the base in order. This was because he had already built a similarly designed kiln, and since this was my first full kiln building experience, it was nice to have a hand in the beginning.The design is based off of the Olsen Fast Fire kiln, a downdraft kiln. Because I wanted to use salt, I needed to build it with hard brick (because the salt would deteriorate the soft brick very quickly), and I made the opening into the chimney (exit flue) a little larger.


These are the fireboxes


This is the beginning of the floor

The openings in the chamber are where the heat from the fireboxes comes in
 I bought used brick, which was nice for the price, but required a lot of cleaning. The kiln shed also took a lot of time to build, but everything slowly came together.



 The arch was a heck of an experience! Check out this blog post for a video of the arch being dropped. I'd seen arches dropped that did not quite work out that well, and even fall through, so I was definitely holding my breath when we finished that step.
A contented potter with her arch

The last row of brick put onto the chimney!
Once the arch was on, all that was basically left was the complete the chimney! Going through the roof was a little surreal at first!
      
Winter kiln firing

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