Sunday, 28 March 2010

Phew! First Bisque Firing Results

Now I know that to all you seasoned potters out there, my little kiln firing is a trivial event.
I've had twenty odd (some very odd) years of becoming unseasoned, forgetting how to do all this. And I'm a man, so, of course, I'm not going to ask for instructions, or look it up. I reason that it's all been in my head once, and that somehow it will surface when needed, and if not, I'll try bluffing. or guessing
And I've never in my life ever fired a little round toploader, so I'm going to program the electronic minder and hope for the best. (I was, by the way, the first potter I knew to have computerised kiln control, back in 1985, it proved to me that computers can screw up just as well as humans). I kinda yearn for the old days of trudging out to the kiln shed in the pouring rain, to adjust gas and air, peek inside the glowing box, and sit on log, waiting, at past mdnight, for that cone-tip to bend down and kiss the shelf.
More nostalgia would include splitting wood all night and feeding it into the ever hungry bourry-box, one memorable firing, we had a crate of beer, and whisky, and the northern lights. And rye-bread, and cheese, toasting at the firemouth, potatoes in a pit of ashes. Mmm.  the firing was good, but a knotty log sprang back and whacked my hand, which swelled up in a bone-broken sort of way, before dawn.
At the time, I felt no pain.

Anyway, no further suspense, ta-daa!!!!  No disasters!
Fortune sometimes smiles on fools.

The alchemy of flame (well, glowing hot bits of wire) has worked its magic. Because the load was tightly packed at the bottom, and fairly empty at the top, I set it to soak for ten minutes at top temp, probably not really needed, but it all looks pretty even.

I'm inordinately happy with this one, disproportionately so. It was born of some wild clay, just up the road from where I was living, the field had been sold for building land. When the backhoes were busy digging foundations, I went in, and stole a digger-bucket's worth of clay. after no more preparation than a bit of wedging and slamming, it threw beautifully, really strong and plastic.

At the time, I was planning to pitch these to various mediaeval history venues, I'd done quite a bit of work before for archeaology units, museums, living history, etc, but the making of these coincided with some rather negative life-changes for me, so they got shoved, along with a load of other remnants of an earlier life, on a shelf, out of sight, out of mind. I always, however, harboured the idea that one day, one day, I'd come back to clay, and fire them. The source of that clay's under a housing estate and a school now.

And nothing collapsed or cracked in the firing.

I was at a wedding reception, whilst the trusty kiln controller did all this. I was only a little bit nervous.

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Into the Archives. and First Bisque Firing!!!

Up early on saturday, across town to get into my basement store before the road closes, (they're resurfacing it after the frosts destroyed it), I'm rummaging, because I know there are some unfired pieces, wrapped in newspaper, and this weekend... ta-----daaaa! I intend the ceremonial first firing of my kiln.
I thought of doing a full scale dry-fire test, but hey, let's do russian roulette, put everything in and throw caution to the winds!

No greenware in this box, but a few promising platters.

I did find them eventually, I'd totally forgotten that I had a few teapots in there.

And in particular a BIG teapot. Oh I love teapots.

Next comes the kiln packing. Awkward, as I only have the one shelf.. Damn. Next tuesday I'll get some more, but that's my first opportunity. So, stack the big things as carefully as possible, and start inserting the smaller pieces. It's like a pit-firing but without the cushioning effect of fuel. May get a few breakages.
fingers crossed, phew. Update tomorrow....