eighth day of firing.

up at four thirty for my five am shift. its cool, the sky is clear in the east but there is thin cloud above. earlier there was a sickle moon hanging low.

T does a quite deliberate payback for the hours tied up asleep on the blanket, she runs out of the gate, across the road and into the cow pasture from which she flushes a hare back onto the road and up the hill. she disappears for ten minutes, and scrapes her front legs just below the elbow. so that’s the end of letting her run that way. I arrive ten minutes later than I wanted to for my shift. Gas is quite excited; the temperature is up high enough for the ash to be melting on the pots; Svend’s pot (the only one tall enough to be visible in the heap of ember) is shiny, and the flames are reflected in its surface.


using the larch, the flames are white in the firebox, and after stoking the flame from the chimney is huge, writhing round and bursting with miniature flame balls like fire dragons. it is yellow rather than red. all these are good indicators that we are up to temperature – twelve-fifty – which is what Gas was hoping for. he rakes the embers with the long chicken foot rake. this allows the kiln to breathe, and the chimney flame does its thing again. he goes off to his tent at six, leaving instructions to wake him at seven for a further rake, but I can’t raise him, and to tell the truth I think I can keep going for a while, I found a longer stick to push the embers aside when I stoke. this is fun. I find myself brandishing a metre of flaming wood. mostly I get the chimney flame to flower into the madly jumping flickering pyrotechnic display which indicates that I am doing the right thing.


Eventually I get Gas up at eight, and he rakes again.


Svend arrives to check everything is going okay, disappears for a walk, and then is back to dive in at nine. he first finds himself a plank, and with it digs around in the embers, turning them over and over. then he opens the bottom firemouth and uses a metal handled shovel to dig out a hole in the ash and cinder, quenching it again with water.


then another go with the plank in the embers.


one of Lisa Hammond’s teabowls turns up in the front and it comes out to cool in ash and ember. It has a shino glaze on it which is partly peeling off. It looks very rough. probably not what she wants, but the dryness and rough texture are what I am hoping for. Svend has to go at eleven, but now we have achieved temperature, and can relax a little, keeping it around twelve hundred degrees until midnight. the larch is almost all used up anyway, so it wouldn’t be possible to push any more.


I missed Phil Roger’s demonstration, and Lisa’s yesterday. but this afternoon Gas demonstrates making a teabowl, not on the wheel, but using a disc of wood rather as though it was a wheel, he flattens the clay onto it with a chopping action, then pulls and squeezes the sides up. someone comments that this is how a raised pie, like a pork pie, is made. so much hand building has similarities to handling pastry, or dough.


a series of deft gestural cuts with a bamboo knife finishes the foot-rim


he makes the point that Raku does not mean party, as the traditional translation says, but a place where the original teabowls were made by the tile-maker Chojiro, and the castle building works where the clay was dug.

now we are more relaxed all my energy has gone. it is very hot and humid and I sweat buckets on the first two and a half hours of my shift, and I’m feeling pretty tired. the kiln is so hot that the buttons on my shirt burn me. I should have a scarf to protect my neck and chest. Brigitte relieves me again, and I go off to wash and bed. I just can’t stay up any longer. I nod off over the laptop in the camper.

meanwhile Gas keeps going with Robert Sanderson’s help, and gets the temperature up even higher. Linda tells me the next day that she thinks it went to thirteen hundred. everything is finally closed down by three am.


next morning we all meet in front of the kiln for an extended coffee and chat. Linda and Erwin are staying on for a few days before Hatfield ceramic fair, Robert is flying back to Ireland this afternoon, and I have to pack up and get home today. its hot again. I feel dazed, sleepy and dehydrated on the way home, but we make it without incident, and I start on the blog on Monday night.


on Friday we open the kiln!