Monthly Archives: June 2010


As if it wasn’t hot enough on Friday (hottest day of the year so far), I spent the whole day at the UCA firing the wood kiln with the Kiln Club (I am now a member!)…..What a great day we had.

The wood kiln, affectionatley known as Bertha, was lit at 4.30 am (I wasn’t there for that part).  She consumed more than 1/2 tonne of wood during the day, before finally reaching the desired temperature at about 9.30pm.

This was my initiation into the world of wood firing and I can see why people get hooked.  You are involved in every part of the firing, obsessing about the temperature rise, the shape and size of the pieces of wood.  Stoking is a constant and precise process, it doesn’t pay to take your eye off the ball for a moment.  For a big old kiln, the sensitivity was amazing.  There are the long periods where it just didn’t seem to rise in temperature at all, and it felt like it was stuck at 1100 degrees for a couple of hours.  A bit of tickling here and there with the dampers and mouseholes, some gentle adgitation, some carefully chosen pieces of wood and the break through came.

Interestingly the bottom of the kiln was considerably hotter.  Cone 10 was down by the end at the bottom and the middle, however at the top it finished up with cone 9 bent half way.

A kiln club member cleverly brought some potatoes, which were perfectly cooked in the embers..delicious.

A met a really great group of people, and look forward to the next firing.  The kiln should be opened on Thursday, so am intrigued to see the result of my Celedon glazed bowl.  Whatever the result I gained a lot from the experience.

Sealing up the door


Raking out the ash box

Watching the wood pile quickly diminish

Tucking into jacket potatoes cooked in the embers

Raking out the ash box

Clearing the ash box..agian. Towards the end when the kiln is consuming so much wood, this is a regular and very hot job

Checking the top cones and revelling in the large reduction flame


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My Favourite Cornish Clay

Took the opportunity when visiting friends in Devon this weekend to hop over the border to Cornwall and fill up with my favourite Cornish Clay.  The clay pit is shut on Saturday’s but Mr Doble kindly left it on a palette outside waiting for me.  Thanks John!

I look forward to getting tucked in……big bowls are my latest fascintation.  There are five in the biscuit kiln now….two of which will be selected for the wood firing at the UCA on Friday.  Am really looking forward to taking part in the firing and seeing the results.

The weather at St Agnes was gorgeous, the clay pit is in a great location on the cliff tops.  Much more rewarding making pots when you know exactly where the clay comes from, rather than just opening a bag….and even better when it is such lovely clay.

Dobles Clay Pit, St Agnes

Not a bad spot for a clay pit!

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Phew….last firing…

Great colours appeared from our last firing of the week.  The oxidised firing produced a lovely turquoise and pink.  We managed to see the cones this time, cone 7 and 8 bent and cone 9 just going, Decided not to soak and it ended up with the pyrometer reading just a bit shy of the desired temperature.

Good test pieces, think I need to focus on the form of the pieces now to show off these glazes to their best.

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Overcooked It

Second kiln firing of the week and I think we overcooked it.  Tried an oxidised firing this time, to see if we could get turquoise, green and pink glazes.  Learning that the temperature inside the kiln varies greatly. Opposed to what you would expect, the front left, bottom of the kiln seems to be the hottest and the back of the top shelf the coolest.  I always thought that heat rises so it would be hotter at the top, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.  Will have to investigate further.

The three bowls from the throwing workshop 2 weekends ago do seem to have survived, although the pink glaze was definitley over done.  On a positive note, the experiment of glazing over black slip had a very pleasing effect, so I will continue to develop this.

The temperate rise was a bit slow throughout the firing, aiming for 1500 per hour and although the top temperature was 12630 and the guide cone 10 was still upright when we finished increasing the temperature, it must have bent over during the 30 minute soak.

Everything make from the black clay, max firing temp 12600, was very over fired.  Imagine a roast potato that had been on max in the oven for 5 hours…… so we now know not to do that again… pictures of these pots…not a pretty sight!

Learning more with each attempt, still only 3 firings under our belt……  I know how it feels to be over cooked, so does the poor doggie, went for a walk near East Dean on the South Downs Way….it’s been a scorcher today, luckily we were in the woods.

Last firing tomorrow before the craft fair…..lets hope we’ve learnt enough this week to make it a good one……

Great big canker, wrapped all the way round the tree

Hot doggie...think she might be a bit overcooked too!

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