Tag Archives: wood fired

Chosen Karatsu Slabs

I had to make a batch of slab plates after the fall wood kiln firing, because every one of my slabs cracked in that firing. Turns out the clay I used was high in silica, and didn’t agree with the long wood kiln firing. The silica turned into cristabolite, and all pots made with that clay experienced shivering, or cracking, no matter what glaze they were paired with, and across a range of temperatures.

Forward a few weeks, and I’m frantically trying to get some replacement plates fired because this weekend is the fall open studio event, followed by an exhibition in Nagasaki during the first week of Dec.

For the most part this firing went well, aside from the fact that I exploded my large platter. Drat.

Fall 2014 Wood Firing Continued

The unloaded pots have now been hammered, moved inside the studio, or are getting refired. The ones that have been moved inside the studio are starting to get cleaned up and polished, in preparation for next spring’s shows.

All in all, there were some 750+- pots in this load. I’m not sure of an exact number because I started smashing before I had a count.

Here are some of the pots that I started cleaning up today. Most of them are small  dishes, ranging from 10 – 17cm across.  All sizes listed are width, and are approximate measurements.

2014 Fall Firing: Unloading the Kiln

Here are images from Saturday’s unloading of the kiln.  Some good, some bad, but mostly good.

Most problems came from mistakes made with clay or glazes, the firing of the kiln was exactly how I planned… first time ever.

Got a nice gradient from about cone 12-13 in front, to cone 6-7 in the back of the first chamber, and an overall cone 6-7 in the rear chamber.

Biggest problem was crawling of iron brushwork on raw ware. I will touch up bare spots and refire these.

Lost both big slabs, which both cracked BADLY.

Madara  and E-Madara items came out really nice overall, with lots of subtle blues.

Kickwheel Conversion Finished

The kickwheel conversion is finally finished. Here are some pictures of the flywheel getting put together:

Douglas Fir beams glued up and drying.  After drying, knocked the corners off with a chainsaw, then knocked off corners again to get a basically round shape.
Douglas Fir beams glued up and drying. After drying, knocked the corners off with a chainsaw, then knocked off corners again to get a basically round shape.
Corners knocked off, planed the edge to soften and round.
Corners knocked off, planed the edge to soften and round.
Planed and sanded, ready to go on the frame.
Planed and sanded, ready to go on the frame.
Placed on the frame, spun, and centered. Then, clamped on in place, turned over and screwed in (not shown)
Placed on the frame, spun, and centered. Then, clamped on in place, turned over and screwed in (not shown)
Reassembled and ready to go!
Reassembled and ready to go!

And it was just as easy as that.  Many thanks again to Yamaguchi kun for making the flywheel armature!

And here I am taking it out for a spin:

I have this recurring nightmare…

before every firing of the wood kiln. Actually it is four separate recurring nightmares. In the first, I am loading pots onto normal wood shelves in a fairly standard living room, for some reason not worrying that the lot of it will burn up with the entire house. BUT, for some reason, I always remove all of the lamps and light fixtures, because they and they alone can’t handle the  high temps.

In the second, we are firing the kiln as usual, and we are into the third day, just hours before finishing and I realize that I FORGOT TO LOAD THE KILN… This one is by far the worst of the dreams. The feeling of sudden panic is positively sublime. Very happy to wake up (and realize it was just a dream) after this one…

The next is not quite as bad as the previous, but still pretty unsettling.  It starts out well enough: I have just unloaded a very successful firing and am so happy with it that I decide to fire again. Because it is a dream, I miraculously have enough glazed ware to load the kiln up again in about 2 days (Normally takes me 10). I get everything loaded, and start the fire, but about a day into the firing I realize I ONLY HAVE ONE DAY WORTH OF FIREWOOD! This one also wakes me up with that icky panicky feeling.

The third is not a nightmare per se, but a recurring dream about a kiln that doesn’t exist. It is a large single chamber, with white interior, and there are shelves on the walls and in the center of the large chamber on a sort of island. The floor, walls, and island are all white and rough with kiln wash. There is no chimney, and the kiln is connected to the fire box via an elevated brick tunnel, which goes out the rear of the chamber about 2 meters, turns 90 degrees right, stretches about 8 meters, then takes another 90 degree right turn, where extends forward and turns into the firebox. From the firebox to the kiln forms a large U shape. Even more strange, the firebox is open to the sky and steps up to the flue channel, which somehow ‘sucks’ in the heat of the fire. The firebox is probably 4 meters long/deep, and the wood used is huge: entire tree trunks shoved in and stacked in a criss cross pattern, burning.  Any one have a kiln that looks like this?

Coming up to this fall firing in Oct., I feel as though everything is under control, and no particularly strong feelings of anxiety, yet the dreams continue, including 2 nights in a row now, a dream of some of my teeth falling out. Seems quite normal in the dream at least…

Trying Out Something New

I decided to try out a new form to put in the next firing. A clam shaped dish that is a sort of Karatsu standard. They are nothing special, and pretty much everyone makes them, so there seem to be MANY ways to get from point A to point B.

Ko-Karatsu Hamaguri Food Dishes 古唐津 蛤向付
Ko-Karatsu Hamaguri Food Dishes
古唐津 蛤向付

The first thing I always do when trying out something new, is look through my collection of old Karatsu ware pictures and books, to see if I can find an example, with measurements, of what I want to make. Well, this time around it seems that although everyone seems to be making them now, there are very few examples of this form recorded in Karatsu ware related books. Or at least the ones I have in my studio.

I managed to find the same 5 piece set of old Karatsu Hamaguri dishes (clam shaped dishes) in 3  different publications (above). And, none of them show the bottom of the dish, or a closeup of the folded lip that makes the clam shape. I made a few, tried cutting the lip and overlapping, pulling the lip up and folding over, and  a few more things, but all I ended up with were forms that just didn’t click.

Whenever I get stumped, I give my mentor a call. He usually has some advice that gets me out of my hole and gets me back on track. In this case, I asked him if there was some sort of not so obvious ‘trick’ involved in getting the shape right for this particular form. As usual, Tsuruta sensei gave me some very good advice, and even sent me some close up photographs, which helped a lot.  So, here’s what I came up with:

Now, I tried doing the bending and folding at various stages of drying and I’m here to tell you that it is best done when they are still sticky wet. I suppose it depends on your clay, but for the stuff we have around here, bending and folding is like asking for fate to show up in your studio with a big baseball bat.

That said, although it folded better when wet, it had a nasty habit of  unzipping vertically down the pot 10 minutes later. That’s where the extra blob of clay came in handy. It seems that not only is it decorative, but it also keeps the pot together until it stiffens up a bit. Who knew?!

Honestly, these are my favorite discoveries: when I find a decorative element that is actually not  a decorative element at all, but rather an important part of the process cleverly disguised as decoration.