A series of posts documenting the making of my wood-fired ceramics
In this post I'm going to show how the pots are glazed and how I prepare the wood kiln ready for packing. At this point I will have travelled down from my studio in Yorkshire to the family farm in West Wales. I spend about 2-3 weeks glazing, preparing the kiln, packing, firing, and unpacking the kiln before heading back up to my studio in West Yorkshire.
I set up a temporary studio in my brother's garage and begin unpacking and sorting out al the work. All the pots will have been bisque fired beforehand so that they survive the long trip down to Wales. Bisque firing also makes the pieces easier to glaze and reduces some of the problems associated with raw firing. I have been using wood-ash based glazes since I started making pots in university. I began exploring ash glazes as it was a way of utilising materials which I could source from around my local environment. I originally began with quite simple glazes consisting of just clay and ash, but have developed them over the years to achieve the consistency and depth I'm after.
Gathering enough usable wood-ash means I'm not able to mix up large batches of glaze. This means I end up pouring the glaze onto the pot rather than dipping the pot into the glaze mix.
I tend to leave a reasonable gap between the bottom of the pot and where the glaze finishes as it has a strong tendency to run. I also use a pencil to write the glaze type on each piece - each glaze looks very similar at this stage so it's easier to repair any bits of glaze knocked off while being carried down to the kiln or while the kiln is being packed. The glazing process takes between 4-5 days which includes a full day working out what type of glaze each piece will have.
Once the glazing is done, the next stage is preparing the kiln for the firing.
The wood firing kiln was built on the family farm which was where I had my first studio. After I moved to Derbyshire and then Yorkshire I kept the kiln in Wales as it wasn't possible to relocate it and I haven't had any suitable places to rebuild it. I actually prefer taking the work back down to the family farm as it helps me clear my head and prepare myself for the firing.
The kiln was built over the winter of 2006 and the spring of 2007. I based it on Joe Finch's fast fire design as I needed a wood firing kiln which would be fairly easy to fire on my own if needed. I won't go into details about the kiln construction as it needs a whole separate blog post (I did write a blog post about the kiln construction on my old website so I'll see if I can revive it and repost it again).
My first job in preparing the kiln involves raking out the ash from the fireboxes. As the kiln is so efficient I don't have much ash to remove, however it isn't much use for making glazes so usually gets disposed of at the bottom of the garden.
The next job involves cleaning the kiln shelves. I usually have bits of glaze stuck on the shelves which have dripped off pots. I use an angle grinder with a masonry disc to remove the glaze. A lot of glaze ran off of the pots during the previous firing. I had some difficulty reaching the top temperature of cone 11 (approximately 1300ºC) because the kiln stalled at about 1250/60ºC for for a couple of hours. Consequently all the glazes ran (a lot...) and made a mess of the shelves, however, I got some great pieces of work from the firing.
If I need to I'll get firewood organised, however I have a huge stock ready nearby and haven't had to order any for a few years. Most of the wood is sourced from around the farm or from a local sawmill.
My next job will be to move all the pots down to the kiln shelter and start packing the kiln. This usually takes me another 4-5 days on my own which I'll detail in the next post.