Firing Kay, Mark Hewitt Pottery, Spring 2016

It was chilly when Evan, Stillman and I got down to the kiln at 5:40am. Adrian, Dustin and Sam were moving like a well-oiled machine whilst we brushed sleep out of our eyes. The temp was right up there at 2400 in the front chamber. Cone 12 was over in the first two stacks and bending in the back. A fine effort from the night crew had put us in a good position. The key had been small regular stokes. We took over and had the front chamber finished sharpish, moving on to the second chamber and opening the first to rapidly cool it. Firing this kiln is unusual as you fire each chamber in turn and cool it as soon as its done. Slow cooling can lead to sugary matte surfaces on the pots rather than glossy ones. The second chamber raced up and only took us a couple of hours to get cone 12 flat. As the sun rose we saw a large heron fly over the kiln shed, high above us; this is always a good omen--Michael Cardew watching our progress.

By 9am we were concentrating on the third chamber. Mark manned the ship, slowly transitioning our stoking pattern from feeding both chambers two and three to just three. Adding a little extra air by keeping the fire box doors slightly ajar helped the burn. By 12:30pm we were done, much to everyone's surprise. We had planned on going until midnight if necessary, and had cut enough wood to do so.

The relief of being done early had us all in high spirits and we enjoyed some cold beverages, a few loop-de-loops on the rope swing, and some marvelous coconut crust quiche that Carol had made. Mark sprayed down the rafters of the kiln to cool them off, we clammed her up and slid in the damper. A glorious collection of bees made their hive in the red clay earth near the kiln, seemingly unaware of all the activity around them. All in all the firing was a very smooth affair. We got the kiln hot, really hot, all over--in the front of the third chamber the cones were obliterated. The test rings we pulled out looked good too.

Adrian checking the cones in the back of the first chamber.
Adrian and Dustin stoking the firebox.
Exactly where we want to be.
Before we started stoking this chamber.

Evan was down visiting me from Burlington, VT. I roped him into helping out with the firing.
Stoking the firebox of chamber 2.

View of the kiln from the side.
Firebox door.
You can see the reflection on the bellies of the pots in there.
Test rings. Glazes looking good. Clay nicely cooked.
More test rings.
Stillman stoking into the middle of chamber 2.
This little guy was hanging out on the wood stack.
Mark, Adrian and I all incised quite a few lizards on our pots this time. There are so many lizards around the Hewitt pottery!
The kiln from afar.
Mark and Evan clamming up the main fireboxes.
Working hard.
Evan stoking chamber 3 firebox.
These look like ant excavations but are actually made by small bees.
Bee art.
The firing squad enjoying a beverage after the kiln was done. From top left: Sam Thompson, Me, Mark Hewitt, Dustin Fowler, Adrian King. Bottom row from left: John Svara, Evan Weiss and Stillman Browning-Howe.

Stoking the very back of the kiln; heavy reduction going on!

You can just see some fat bellies here.

During the cool down the color of the pots goes from bright orange to red.
In the time it's taken me to post this, we have been through the grueling week of waiting to crack her open and have now unloaded. The results were excellent and many of our experimental glazes came out very nicely. Soon I will post with pics of the pots!

Springtime Kiln Loading. Hewitt Pottery 2016.

Spring has sprung here in the South. We had our last freeze of the year last week (fingers crossed) and the trees are starting to bloom again. Great waves of pollen are falling all around usits like orange snow on your car windscreen. I've never been anywhere with so much pollen. The ants and flies seem to have noticed the warm weather and are flooding back into our house. We put up the first sticky fly tape of the year and Jasper (one of our cats) managed to tear one down and get himself tangled up in it last night. The point of this tape is that it's so sticky that flies land on it, get stuck, and die: it's extremely nasty stuff. So we had to take him to the vet for a haircut.

But enough of our springtime woes; I have lots of pictures to put up of our recent kiln loading. This week we are firing Mark's new kiln (built in 2009). It is the 11th time: the firings are stamped alphabetically so we're up to firing 'Kay.' We had a lot of bisque-ware to glaze due to all the experimental glazes we have formulated, so glazing took us a few days, but then the loading went pretty fast. Having an extra pair of hands has really helped. Stillman Browning-Howe has been working with us for the last few months, mostly laboring, as he will replace Adrian as a full-on apprentice when he leaves in a few weeks. So it's been like having three apprentices rather than two. He has helped a great deal with all of the laborious tasks needed to get ready to fire, like cutting wood, grinding kiln shelves, moving wood, mixing clamming, and rolling wads.

We stacked the kiln quicker than anticipated so now have extra time to fire. I am on the night shift tonight which will be a pretty slow easy rise in temp, then we'll take turns tomorrow bringing it up to top temp by midnight. Saturday is when we really fire it off and work the temperature back through the second and third chambers. Here are some loading snaps:


Fat jars and two part vases

More of Mark's pots

Some of our glazes

One of Adrian's platters. Love this decoration.

Some of my casserole dishes. I was pretty pleased with how these took shape and am excited to see them fired.

Casserole from above


All lined up and ready to go

The kiln. Expectant.

First row of shelves in the back chamber

We raise them off the floor to allow for ash and ember build up

Cones! These bend at specific temperatures to show you how the firing is going. We fire to cone 12 which is over 2400 degrees F.

Mark's pots ready for wadding

What next?

Starting the back stack. This is much more awkward.

Back chamber of the kiln done. The path down the middle is for stoking thin strips of wood.

This is where Adrian and I spent several days glazing all of our pots.

Stillman; master wad and coil roller!

Mark and Adrian carrying precious cargo.

Big ribbon pot by Mark Hewitt.

Stillman squeezing through a tiny gap to help pull the last big pot into the kiln.

Its in! Relieved faceswe didn't chip or break any big pots despite the tight squeeze.

Ready to be bricked in

Side view of the second and third chambers

One of Mark's medieval pitchers from the salt kiln. We were using this as a water jug during loadingslightly excessive as it holds about two gallons!

The beginning of stacking the front chamber

Pitchers, jars and small pots ready to be put in

Carrying boards into the kiln

Starting on the front stack of the front chamber
One of the final shelves goes on

Almost done!

We have a good amount of wood ready

Firebox door

We decided to build a bag wall to prevent the flame rushing under the shelves straight into the second chamber.

Bricking up the third chamber

View of the kiln all clammed up and ready

The kiln gods are watching

Firing Kay

The kiln is lit: we start with gas up to 600 degrees F.

The beast awakens!

Test Firing Results!

In my last post I wrote about the experiments we have been doing with new glazes using local raw materials. We fired just the front chamber of Mark's new wood kiln (built in 2007) with a whole bunch of test glazes and glaze combinations. Now all of the pots have been sanded down and put out on the shelves for this weekends pop up sale. The results of the firing were pleasing on the whole. We learned a lot, figuring out which glazes work, which don't, and which to use slips under each.

Below are a smattering of pots, not necessarily the best of the bunch, just a sampler to show some of the different results. It was getting dark when I took these snaps so the colours aren't as bright as in real life, but anyway first up here are some of mine...

Shino yunomi.
Celadon yunomi on left, ash glaze on right.
Ash glaze sppon holder on left and celadon on the right with red slip trailed under.
Celadon barrel mug with red slip dots, ash glaze dipped over on the rim.
Shino tumblers with iron and manganese slips trailed under.
 Now some of Adrian's...

Albany slip vase over wiped red slip.
I am actually unsure of what glaze combo this is. Will have to ask Adrian!

Various mixing bowls.
Celadon mixing bowl with red slip decoration.
Small bowl with nuka glaze over red slip swirls.
Pair of tumblers with white glaze swishes over celadon (plus 1% iron oxide).
Same as the tumblers above.
And a few of Marks...

Large platter with one glaze on top of another with wax resist rings.
Celadon vases. These look super in the sub: a shiny light translucent blue. Very nice.
Celadon serving bowls with red slip trailed and dotted underneath.
Celadon over sgraffito decoration.
Celadon over red slip.
Ash glaze stein. Look close and you can see the head and arms of a sgraffito lizard.

This glaze is called Rocky 12, believe it or not.
Close up of the Rocky 12 surface.
Celadon serving bowl with red slip dots under.
Getting ready for the sale.
Four medium sized pots from the salt kiln, out on sale this weekend.
To end on here are a few pots in progress in the studio. Mark has been making some gigantic pots for the next firing as the side door to the second chamber of this kiln is larger than in the salt kiln. Each of these pots take four people to move and weigh between 250-350lbs!

Big unfired pots.
Ribbon vase (unfired). I'm excited to see how this one turns out.
 And finally here's one of my fishy casserole dishes. First attempt at a slip trailed fish!

Fish stew anyone?