Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Group Effort - Eighth Firing of the Newfoundout Train

Still playing catch up with my blog! With having to focus most of my work during the last part of spring and early summer on producing larger pieces, especially platters, (which do not fire that well in my small wood fired train kiln), I was lacking enough pots for a wood firing this summer. Fortunately a New Zealand anagama firer, Darryl Frost, happened to be staying in Ottawa for three months. He had put out an email through the Ottawa Guild of Potters that he was interested in helping with a wood firing in the Ottawa area. I contacted him and when we went to Capitol Pottery Supply for him to buy some clay, we met a couple of potters from the Ottawa Guild, Marie Hennessey and John Ikeda . John does earthenware - exquisitely coloured abstract designs that I have always greatly admired. He said he was ready to explore other firing methods and so they also expressed interest in taking part. Then another potter form Madonna House in Combermere - a religious lay community about an hour away from our farm
was also interested. Perfect!
Now I would have enough pots to fill the kiln - and not only that, Darryl had contact with Mike Doxey who has a wood fired kiln about 2 hours way from me and he was interested in partaking as well. Now with 5 people to bring pots and with two expert wood firers to load and fire my kiln I was all set!
Our "farm" and my kiln is located in "The Newfoundout", an abandoned farming community high in the Opeongo Hills of eastern Ontario. It is off the beaten track - up a very steep, rough road and then just a track slaloming through big rocks in the front fields -so I was a bit apprehensive about cars making it in to the back where the kiln is located without hitting any rocks - but all were not only great potters but superb drivers.
Apart from my very first firing this is only the second time that I had a group firing - and it made the job so much more enjoyable, not to mention easy on the back - plus with overnight shifts we were able to fire longer then my usual 14 - 15 hours.
Almost done loading!
Fire outside the firebox at the start

Firing on the hobs
Darryl loves crusty surfaces - although not my favorite I can appreciate them. He stacked and wadded with seashells and placed his pieces over the channels under the stoking holes where I would never think of placing items- but in the future I think I can make some pieces that would take advantage of this intense ash buildup.
Several things that I learned - bring the temp up much more slowly at the start - even start the fire outside of the firebox at the start - so as not to stress the kiln furniture. I have had lots of problems with the lid shelves on my kiln cracking and that could be why. After just 8 firings that should not really be happening.

They also side stoked at lot more than I would and the temperature was much more even through out. I think it is just too much hard work when one is firing all by oneself to do much side stoking.

Darryl clammed up the kiln at the end with a very runny slip mix of clay and grog and applied it with a brush. I was used to using a thicker mix that I applied with a spatula or by hand which was much more time consuming. He also did not fire down before shutting everything up as I did, as Steve Harrison in his book says that you may end up with reduction cooling if you do.

The results - well we all had some great pots, some failures but all in all a successful firing with results very different from my firings. We had pretty even temps and ash through-out but hardly any carbon trapping. Instead the shinos ending up a very beautiful, lustrous gold!
Thanks everyone for all the hard work and a great firing!
Darryl's crusty sinkers.
Analyzing the results! Lots of ohs and ah and some ughs too! But that's attraction of wood firing!
You never now what you will get!


  1. Nice looking work! I like that kiln design as well... I sent you an email about it.

  2. Group firings are the best! Shared work, shared results, and more frequent firings!!

  3. That is some great work! I'll bet that was fun. Thanks for sharing your experience in such a well-documented and interesting manner.