Mark Hewitt Pottery Spring 2016 Kiln Opening, Firing Kay

Our recent visit to England has somewhat slowed down my bloggering activities but now I have so much material and so many pictures to share. During our two week trip we were able to visit Svend Bayer, Clive Bowen, the pottery and museum at St Ives, and the Sainsbury's Centre (which has an amazing collection of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper pieces). Oh and an exhibition of Michael Cardew's pottery in Chipping Camden. I have my work cut out! But first I should put up some pics from our recent kiln opening.

This was a particularly exciting firing as the kiln was mostly filled with experimental glazes made using local materials. It was also Adrian's last firing as an apprentice at the Hewitt pottery. The firing went very smoothly and our expectations were mostly met by the results. The celadons and tenmokus were particularly dazzling, whilst the shinos proved a little trickier; some came out fantastically but others crawled. Overall we had some lovely results and a good sale. People responded well to the new glazes. At the end of the post I have included some pictures of my pots taken at Adrian's house with his flowtone backdrop. Personally I prefer seeing pots with a natural background such as a barn door or a grassy knoll, but in order to build a portfolio I am trying to document in a more professional manner.

Big pot by Mark Hewitt. This one is called "Mr Softie"
Empty kiln (apart from all the wads!)
Big pot by Mark Hewitt. I love the shape of this one.
Detail of the glass drip on this pot.
This one sold before the sale began.
Big pot by Mark Hewitt

The crowds arrive!
Marbled plate by Mark Hewitt.
Two part vase by Mark Hewitt. Regretting not snapping up this one-it was a super second.
Some little espresso cups I made.
Adrian and Patrick Rademaker (visiting up from Florida) stole my camera and blessed me with this picture of themselves, plus ruder versions!
Tableware by Mark Hewitt.
Jug/pitcher and mugs by Adrian King.
We have to write a little something for each kiln opening. Here's mine.
Droopy bellied sawanaky with shino glaze.
Cider jar/jug by Adrian King.
Celadon teapot by Adrian King.
White glazed vase with finger wiped decoration by Adrian King.
Heron scraffito tankard by Adrian King.
Two carbon trapped shino tankards by Adrian King.
Vase/wine vessel by Mark Hewitt. Ash glaze.
Celadons! Oh glorious celadons, by Mark Hewitt.
Big fat jar by Mark Hewitt. Tenmoku glaze.
Tableware by Mark Hewitt.
Nice tenmoku jar by Mark Hewitt.
Two part vases by Mark Hewitt.
A couple of my mugs. They have gone up from $9 to $15 this firing! Quite the increase!
Rows of my pots.
Casserole with lizard scraffito decoration.
The full inscription reads "Bernie is boss." If I could vote in the elections here it would definitely be for Bernie!
Display of my pots before the punters arrived.
Shooter, sawanaky and honey jar hanging out together.
Two of my tumblers. I like how the one on the right curves in at the top: I was aiming for this torpedo like shape.
Covered dish by Adrian King. You can use the lid as a bowl to eat from too.

I met this lovely lady at La Meridiana whilst she was on Mark's course. It is fun to catch up at kiln openings!
Some of Adrian's platters.
A rather handsome umbrella stand by Mark Hewitt.
A couple of my smaller casserole dishes.
And now on to the pictures I took using Adrian's flowtone background. Getting the light/highlights just right is an art I have yet to master but I think the results are alright. I would appreciate any feedback on the pics if you have any advice or suggestions.

Two part vase, celadon glaze.
Two part vase, tenmoku glaze over red slip decoration.
Sawanaky jar, shino gaze over red slip decoration.
Sawanaky jar, celadon glaze over red slip banding and scrafitto marks.
Vase, celadon glaze over red slip banding.
Two part vase, tenmoku glaze over red slip decoration.
Tumblers, tenmoku on the left, shino on the right
Barrel mugs, celadon glaze over red and white slip decorations.
Small bud vase, tenmoku glaze.
Shot glasses/shooters, celadon glaze with red slip dots under.
Large casserole dish, celadon glaze over red slip dots and lines.
Large three handled casserole with fish decoration, tenmoku glaze.
Small casserole dish, albany slip over red slip decoration.

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?

Testing. Testing.

It's official: we are in the bleak midwinter (well, we were when I started writing this post anyway). Precipitation from the sky is no longer liquid. It's whiter, colder and you can't see through it. Riding my bike down to work has become treacherous so I've been walking instead; carefully following the paw prints of one of the neighborhood felines....

We live worryingly close to the Carolina Tiger Rescue.
Its been an exciting couple of months at the Hewitt Pottery. The workshop is in a state of flux. Our normal routine has been abandoned for the moment in order to pursue new materials and glazes. Before Christmas Mark was recently awarded a United States Artist Fellowship which came with a significant chunk of prize money. Some of the funds have been appropriated for research and development into new glazes from local materials.

View of Mark's house and the pottery from across the pond.
Just before thanksgiving last year Mark and Adrian went on a mission into the NC countryside, coming back with several different types of granite, feldspars, and other potentially useful materials such as apatite and spodumene.

Raw materials.
Since then, Adrian, Mark, I and Stillman Browning-Howe (the next apprentice who will be replacing Adrian) have been processing these materials to make them usable: transforming them from rocks into powders. First we calcine them in the bisque kiln, then tamp them to break the pieces down to pea-size or smaller. Next they go into the ball mill with water for eight hours or so, which breaks the peas down to very fine particles. We empty this out and dry it in large shallow beds. Some of the material settles out badly, which makes it more challenging and time-consuming to transfer to the drying beds. The process is considerable. Lots of moving rocks and digging slurry out of plastic bins!

Apatite out to dry in the sun because we needed some to mix a glaze ASAP.
Close up of the apatite.
Mark came up with various triaxial blends using the new materials, mixed up small batches of them (50g) and applied them to test tiles. We performed a couple of test firings in the small gas kiln and tinkered with the recipes. Whilst all this was going on, we were making pots and bisquing them ready for full tests.

Test tiles galore.
Test tiles.
These were some shinos I tested (most of them not applied thickly enough).
Next stage was mixing up 5lb-20lb batches of the glazes we liked best and trying various combinations on our pots. We are also experimenting with some raw glazes but for these you need approximately 25% clay which tends to muddy the glaze quality. The granite celadons especially look better with less clay making them only suitable as bisque glazes.

Glaze measuring station
Some of the new glaze tests.
Bisque pots awaiting glazing above, raw glazed pots below.
Some little yunomi I made for tea or whisky, or whatever tipple you prefer.
Mixture of mugs and yunomi.
Some of my tumblers.
Some of Mark's bisque pots. I love these--they remind me of Greek or Roman wine vessels.

Mark in the midst of a Sunday morning's glazing.
Mark's mugs. Slip trailing in progress.
This past week we loaded the front chamber of Mark's new kiln (built in 2007) and fired it through Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Despite being only the front chamber, it fit a significant amount of pots. We placed different glazes all over the place to see how they react to higher and lower temps. Its very exciting. Now all we have to do is wait and hold our breath! We unload in four or five days and I'll post some photos of the results then.

The new kiln.
Different angle on the new kiln.
Before firing the kiln we re-did the front of the floor to make it nice and flat.

Re-doing the floor of the kiln.
Now here's just some more snowy pictures...

Big pots in the snow. Love the shadows!
Big pot in the snow
The melt is on!
Our vegetable garden is not looking very happy.
The chickens don't like getting cold feet.
Happiness is a bowl of kitchen scraps.