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Firing Log

ancient kiln | 21st century logbook

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May 1, 2006

Attorney at Pottery

Filed under: anagama, 6th,Firing,Potters — odin @ 9:00 pm

I’ve been meaning to mention Frank Turco for some time now, but haven’t due to his gracious gift and my own procrastination with respect to foot grinding. Today however, I found the energy to do some much needed grinding on pottery from the last firing. One of the pieces I cleaned up, was a lovely medium sized bowl that Frank made. Now that it is cleaned up, I can finally post pictures of Frank’s work.

Frank is a character. He is an attorney from British Columbia, Canada, and a very good potter to boot. The piece Frank gave me from the last firing is a lovely thrown and altered porcelain bowl, light and balanced without feeling like it would break if hit by sunlight.

Here are some pictures of the bowl I’m speaking about (clicking any picture opens a medium sized copy (1024×768) in a separate window):

frank turko's porcelain anagama fired bowl

frank turkos porcelain anagama fired bowl

frank turcos anagama fired porcelain bowl

I believe the brown stripes are due to glaze dripping off the ceiling. Oddly though, there is one inside the bowl and outside under the rim. I know Frank glazed some of pieces with a shino, but I’m pretty confident the brown stripes are unrelated. It takes no explanation to understand how the drip inside the bowl could have appeared there. The glaze drip under the rim mystified me for a time — glaze drips don’t fall sideways (and if they did, one might wish to consider dampering the draft a bit to prevent inordinate heat loss).

Although this is one of the few pieces that survived the firing, it did not pass through unscathed. There is a contact scar on the rim coupled with a large area on the foot that was bonded to the kiln shelf quite well. The orientation of the rim scar corresponds perfectly with the large foot scar. Plainly, one drip fell into the bowl. Then the shelf failure occured, the bowl tipped onto its side, and a second drip fell on the top side of the pot in its new position.

This bowl, besides being a wonderful piece in its own right, is telling me an important story. It is telling me that the kiln was hot enough and sticky enough to drip glaze over an extended period of time. It’s telling me to shorten the duration I keep the kiln at its peak temperature. This doesn’t necessarily mean I should shorten the firing, it just means I need to hold off on turning the inside of the kiln into a demons’ playground. That should help keep more glaze on the pieces and allow less to drool off onto the shelves.

I’m very happy to have this bowl, not only for what it is, but for the lessons fused with its form.

Enough about that though, this is supposed to be about Frank. First, here is another piece he gave me (click pics for larger view):

This little tea bowl is from a gas kiln Frank built and fires to cone 10 with a weed burner. He says it roars like a jet plane at the peak of firing — having some experience with weed burners, I don’t doubt him at all. I love that he built his own kiln rather than having simply bought one. That kind of self-sufficiency is something I admire. Nor is Frank afraid to get dirty — he’s delving into the geology of pottery, digging up local rocks and clays and compounding his own clays, slips, and glazes. This isn’t to say he doesn’t use commercial mineral products, but having myself spent a fair amount of time digging — I respect the labor involved.

One last little tidbit. Frank has met or is familiar with the work of many many potters. I started to get embarrassed at my lack of knowledge about practically anybody. I tend to be reclusive, but I also realize I need to get out and meet people and see other works — without that exposure, I’m limiting myself.

I hope the last disastrous firing doesn’t keep Frank from stoking again — he’s a welcome addition to the stoking crew.

April 15, 2006

Once Fire Raku

Filed under: Firing,non-anagama,Uncategorized — odin @ 4:47 pm

I built a raku kiln 4 or 5 years ago. Alan (you’ll see him below) taught me how to weld and donated some expanded steel. I zipped it up with a MIG welder — the welds are certainly amateurish and a pro would laugh, but it’s held up. Welding is a heck of a lot of fun — I wish I could come up with a good excuse to weld often but alas, that raku kiln has been my one and only time. Here’s the basic setup:

raku kiln basic setup

Today, Rachel (green shirt), Tony (red shirt), Alan (picking piece), stopped by to fire off the raku kiln. Every since building the kiln, it has been living at Alan’s … but certain changes necessitated its move here to the anagama site. Today was its first firing here (discounting the one that didn’t work for lack of a wrench).

opening raku while hot

Alan’s new and unusual color:

alans salmon raku glaze

I lost interest in raku quite some time ago — the results aren’t really what I’m after. I don’t mind white crackle so much but I became disenchanted with bright penny coppers and turquoise blues. Those results are pretty in their way — they merely aren’t what I want. However, I do like the actual orange and red colors in Alan’s new glaze.

Today I recovered some of the raku spark — could I “once fire” a piece? What the heck — no harm in trying. I went into my studio and grabbed something that hadn’t made it into the last anagama firing. It was an unbisqued (I don’t bisque) small slab bowl. I applied some white crackle glaze with a brush to the inside of the bone dry piece, and then set it on the kiln during the others’ firings in the hope it would dry sufficiently. It spent about two hours drying although I had to remove it between each kiln opening.

When Tony, Alan, and Rachel were done, I put mine in the kiln. I decided to raise the height of the shelf so the piece would be more in the middle of the kiln away from the burner. I hoped that would provide an environment a little gentler than it would receive on a low shelf. We set the kiln shell in place and I covered the outlet hole with piece of metal to keep rain off the piece. I decided I’d let the pottery preheat by sitting in the warm kiln with the burner off for 10 minutes. The firing would end the moment we heard the piece break.

The piece didn’t break sitting in the warm kiln, so I turned on the heat a tiny bit and waited for that dull pop of exploding pottery. It never came, so I bumped the heat a tiny bit again. And again. And again. When the paint on the piece of metal started to burn off, I cranked it to a low roar. Still no breaking noise, and the paint crackled into fascinating patterns:

I bumped it up to full throttle. I could see the glaze melting and the piece glowing. After about 70 or 80 minutes, I stopped the burner, Alan and Tony lifted the kiln, and just like any other piece of raku, my once fired bowl went straight into a post firing reduction chamber. I’m in the browncoat (same one I wore to the opening night of Serenity in true geek fashion — I much prefer Firefly though).

opening hot once fire raku

In my impatience, I pulled it out too soon to douse it in water — it was at that point the foot fell off. No matter — I’m confident I can do once-fire-raku again. I won’t ever buy a bisque kiln.

once fire raku, good first try

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