Digging Deeper: ‘Kazegama: the inaugural firing’

Kazegama Glow

After hours, days, and months of work the Kazegama kiln has been completed! And she is quite a beauty. The inaugural firing of the Kazegama took place this past weekend and it was a beautiful sight. It was certainly an instance in which it ‘took a village’ to make it happen. George Rolland, along with Karen Dubois have been working for nearly a year on nights and weekends to create this glorious masterpiece. They have researched, problem solved, welded and worked for hours on end. It is hard to imagine the brilliance that it takes to build a kiln that will not only function properly (making sure not to blow any of us up), but will also produce the gorgeous wood ash influenced effects that we are all thrilled about seeing.

Since I am a relative firing novice, I am still learning much of the science and mechanics behind kilns and firings. There is certainly a lot to learn. There are a few key differences in firing this kiln than in firing our other gas kilns (“Bertha” & “Glorifred”). One of the main ones being the need to wad each piece before loading it into the kiln.  ‘Wadding a piece’ refers to

Wood ash blast on pot.
Wood ash blast on pot.

placing a mixture of refractory materials under and between pieces in order to keep them from fusing to the shelves due to the introduction of wood ash. This is the method wood fire (and Kazegama) potters use instead of waxing the bottom of their pieces. That means Kazegama firing day at the Village began with wadding and then subsequently fitting and stacking each piece into the kiln. The other main difference is the introduction of wood ash. We anxiously waited until the temperature of the kiln reached 2300 degrees (cone 9) before we could ‘let it fly’ into the kiln. Hannah, Jenay, Sarah T., and Tori worked for hours sifting wood ash over and over again so that there would be clean, small particles that would float easily in the atmosphere of the kiln. The process of wood ash introduction was a lot of fun. One at a time we would take a heaping scoop of ash and hold it up to the blowers in a circular motion for four seconds. We did this on each burner/blower twelve times with hopes to ensure a consistent introduction into different sections of the kiln. The flame would burst each time, giving us an indication that the wood ash was indeed making it’s way into the kiln.

Some results on student work from Kazegama unload

After all was said and done the Kazegama kiln took 8-9 hours to fire and we were able to open her up less than 12 hours after turning her off!  We were so pleased to see how the wood ash swirled around the kiln and coated pots differently depending on where they were placed and how they were stacked.  We look forward to firing up “Kazie” again very soon and taking her to the WNC Pottery Festival in Dillsboro. The proceeds of each piece sold out of the WNC Pottery Festival firing will benefit The Community Table, a Dillsboro non profit whose mission is to provide nutritious meals community members in need.

The beauty in creating a apparatus like a kiln is that it keeps on giving. The kiln itself is a fascinating, complex, intricate instrument that will then continue to produce fascinating, complex, intricate pieces of art.

Dearing Davis,

The Village Potters

Red Clay Halo Pottery