sixth day of firing.

clear cool morning at four-thirty, mist lying in hollows, and thick dew. the dogs mess around and I have to grab Tilda to get them back in. the thrush is singing, but not for long. it is going to be a hot day.


the kiln is at about a thousand degrees, Gas firing as Svend began, with both firemouths covered, the wood pushed in almost all the way. a chunk of hardwood in the bottom, longer pieces of mostly cedar, but with some beech and hazel in the top, and when I run out of long, short will do. a nine inch flame comes out of the blowhole after stoking. the purring is a little louder but I wouldn’t call it roaring, and there is much satisfactory crackling.


in the spaces between stokes I listen to the kiln and to the wood. the roebuck is barking (it’s the rut); the woodpecker makes his rackety laughing call, the thrush adds a few notes, magpies call in the distance, and the robin’s chittering alarm calls. behind all the roar of the motorway.

I have to get my act together for my demonstration tomorrow. the clay is wet and sticky and good for throwing, not slab-building. I wedge in some sand and some small feldspar stones which are in Gas’s workshop. they give it some roughness, but they don’t absorb the damp like grog does. the sand will help to open it up and give it some texture. so I wedge up a lump and leave it to dry out a bit.

we have plenty of help today, Vicki is installed in her flowery tent, Linda is on hand, and Svend will be doing two shifts.


today the event begins, people are arriving after lunch, and Linda demonstrates her very fluid throwing and cutting, or centering, cutting and throwing without touching the outside of the pot. it’s quite an impressive technique, and in a way she seems to be going in the same direction as I am. she adds the felspar stones and the sand in as I did. she is trying to roughen her work to make it more expressive of the process of woodfiring, even the porcelain she adds wood ash to, leaving rough lumps and beautiful spots and speckles after firing.


by the time I start my evening shift Gas and Svend have put enough oomph into the kiln to send it up to about 1150 degrees. it is much easier to work this evening and I am happy. it’s hot work and hard on the knees. the easiest posture is to kneel in front of the kiln. so all my photos of people stoking tend to be views of bottoms. there is red flame at the chimney now, and lots of black smoke with that delightful steam railway engine smell of carbon, quite unmistakeable. Brigitte takes over from me at eight; she has just driven from East Ham especially to help with the stoking, but she will lose her shift to Svend at nine. the event attendees get together for a discussion of woodfiring led by Gas, but the conversation wanders off in all directions and I leave to eat, wash and sleep.