Sunday, April 5, 2009

Noborigama Wood Fire

I love throwing pots. I know some folks out there may not be privy to the phrase; and probably have images of Erin and me throwing spaghetti against the wall. And as much as we are an odd couple, what I'm really talking about is pottery. I'm not really embarrassed to use the utilitarian or craft-culture term: "pottery"; rather than the bourgeois, "ceramics." Don’t get me wrong, society needs artists. And I would even go on to say that society needs art where the pieces go beyond form meeting function. But I digress…

Anyways, at this point I feel comfortable saying that I am a potter. This is one of the few creative outlets in my life for which I have developed a deep passion. And this past weekend was a great addition in my experience as a potter: a wood firing. I’ll give the briefest concepts of throwing pots that I can to give some background.

Ok. So, you’re probably familiar with the part where a clay pot is thrown on a wheel, sculpted with tools, or assembled with clay slabs. Once a pot is finished and dry it is called greenware; at this point it is fired (or heated) to a little over 1000 degrees in a kiln. Then it is decorated and glazed with a kind of wet clay/mineral based paint. At this point it can go through its final firing in a variety of ways: in an electric kiln, a gas kiln, or wood kiln. There are so many variables that can create different effects based on type of kiln, temperature, glazes, methods of firing, blah-blah.

This weekend was the first time I have fired in a large wood fired kiln, called a Noborigama Kiln. This type of kiln is based around a type of kiln called an Anagama which is one of the oldest wood-fired kilns:

The basic concept is that there are three chambers: the first one for a huge, hot wood fire; the second and third chambers hold the pots and get a smaller wood fire. And the third one also gets a bunch salt blown into it for different effect on the pots. So the temperature get above 2400 degrees F, ash showers down on the pots, and the glazes/ash/salt turn to glass.

All of this is done over a 2-day period of time. I partnered with another classmate to work the primary firing session from midnight to 6:00 am. We drank homebrew, played guitar, threw more pots, and kept the fire going.

A week after getting the kiln up to temp, we got to unload the kiln and see our pots. One of my favorite things about this style of firing is that it is so organic and uncontrollable. You are feeding the fire god and she returns with a gift; but you never know what that gift might be. So, here are some pictures of the gifts I received.

And some spring mushrooms, and salamander.


Lily Girl said...

Amara survived that firing remarkably well ;)
Those pots and figures are fantastic! It's so great to get something both functional and beautiful in return for your efforts.

Gabby said...

Hey! Amazing pots! I am currently taking a Raku Class where we get to fire all of our pots with blow torch like devices to create a metallic glaze. Amara is getting so big! She is still as beautiful as ever! I can't wait to me her on of these days! Hope everyone is doing well!

Tim is Alive said...

so... how did ya glaze the pot without it sticking to the cooling rack?