seventh day of firing.
Vicki gets up early to let me have a lie-in, theoretically, although I still wake at the same time and can’t get back to sleep. the demo is running through my head. at least I get a chance to have a yoga practice before it gets too hot (in front of the cars – it’s the only level space). it’s nice to be able to potter a bit, but I am up and down to get the clay out, organise tools, boards, clay condition. I think it goes alright. I make two pots, a bottle and a vase type vessel, one with the porcelain scraped over it with a knife, and the other with the random speckle of porcelain bits scattered over it. there are some good comments, especially about the cracks. they want to know why, of course, but a few times cracks and missing parts are pointed out to me, almost as if people can’t bear to see this imperfection going on – or maybe as if it won’t stand up with the cracks.and then the idea of them as flawed vessels which won’t hold water for flowers. in the end my comment is that perhaps it’s a good thing, as I don’t intend them to be flower vases.
I buy two little porcelain beakers and a big teabowl from Linda de Nil. they are like little paintings, with the ash from the firing, the ash in the porcelain body, and some dry porcelain added to the wet outside of the pot. I use the beautiful teabowl for my tea and coffee from now on. we need lots of tea. it is very hot and humid, and although the kiln site in the trees is cool in itself, firing is very very hot work. the camper is unbearable, even with everything open.I bring a blanket for T and anchor her to various spots, for the demonstration (and Sal, because I can guarantee that if allowed to be loose he would be spotted having a big pooh in the middle of the grass just as I am in mid flow) and by the kiln. she is very good about it and relaxes totally, covered in sawdust.
Gas and Svend intend their big push up to full temperature tonight, with long flames which will reach right to the pots at the back. the chimney already has a big flame every time the kiln is stoked, with explosive burning of the gases as they exit. the boards of the roof started to curl up, so they built up the back of the chimney and put a shelf across to force the flame forwards. I have seen kiln sheds whose protective corrugated sheeting has been burnt through by the chimney flame.
the blowhole has a beautiful flowering flame; exit gases play up and down it as the consumption of wood varies.
more potters arrive. Phil Rogers last night, this morning, Robert Sanderson, Lisa Hammond, Yo Thom, John Butler, and my old friend Sally Raven, a co-stoker at Nic Collins’ kiln. Sally tells me she has an anagama kiln herself now, built to Svend’s plan and with his help, in North Wales, and also that she got a first. very good news. Lisa, John and Phil all have pots in the kiln; Lisa has a lot, nearly as many as I do.
Lisa gives her demonstration before and after lunch, with a slide show, Robert Sanderson talks about wood-fired kilns, then Yo and John also do talks about their work, and in John’s case his revolutionary fast-fire anagama kiln. he is very concerned, and rightly, about the impact his work makes on the environment, and he is trying to develop a kiln which will give the same sort of firing as a traditional anagama kiln, but using far less wood. this is quite controversial! Svend does a talk on his latest kiln. it is very hot in the building; I see bits and pieces of things from the back, under the awning outside.
Brigitte takes the early part of my shift, so I only do two hours. as I leave Svend is pulling a vast quantity of ash and cinder out of the bottom of the kiln at the front, to lower the ember heap. it glows red until he pours water on it. everything is much more dramatic at night.
afterwards in the camper I leave every window and the side door and tailgate open, and have a sluice down in the bucket. instead of the electric I light a few candles, by the light of which I can read and write perfectly well, I can’t think why I didn’t use the candles before. it’s a clear night. what amazing weather for camping. the wood is so much cooler that even sitting around the kiln is much more comfortable. although I do have a few mosquito bites. drinking tea is better than water I think, and its enjoyable to use a beautiful teabowl.
off to bed. the camper has cooled down a little. everybody who is not firing is watching the Shiho Kanzaki “Fire Artist” film.