Winter Wood Firing

Last Monday, Becky Brandow of Willow Avenue Pottery joined me to unload the wood kiln we’d fired the weekend before.  Between the firing and pizza party we had during the firing, I didn’t manage to get any photos of the firing itself.  Didn’t even get my traditional pic of the loaded kiln before we brick up the door.  Apparently I don’t deal well with distractions.  Oh well…the photos would have looked just like my previous firings anyway.

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The Day After A Firing

For lots of people it’s Small Business Saturday.  But for me it’s the day after a firing so I’m having a Peek In A Cooling Kiln Day or Melt Your Flashlight Day.  I’ve done both today and will continue to peek in the kiln with a different flashlight and try to remember not to place the light so close to the peek hole.  

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and successful Small Business Saturday. 

June Woodfiring

A few years ago, we were younger and more naive woodfiring.  We fired the kiln over the weekend that followed the 4th of July.  It ended up being a very hot, humid weekend with no breeze made so much worse by the fact that we were standing in close proximity to the kiln as it reached it’s peak temp the same time the day reached it’s peak temp.  After that firing we vowed to never fire in July again.  

Now a few years down the road, we are older and wiser in our woodfiring practices.  We’ve adjusted our firing schedule so we encounter the top temp of the kiln through the night to take advantage of the cooler air temps.  A large barn fan has become a wonderful breeze in the kiln shed on days when nature isn’t providing one.  And by keeping our firings to primarily spring and fall of the year we avoid the super cold of Minnesota winters and the hot, humid days of Minnesota summers.  

So what was I thinking when I scheduled a firing for the last weekend in June??? Isn’t that pretty much the same as July???  Anyway…

 For the most part the firing went well.  There were some unusual happenings but overall, I feel really good about the anticipated results.  

We experienced torrential rains, then sunshine and humidity, and back to the rains again through the entire firing.  We lost power for approximately 3 hours during the night and had to use a collection of solar lights from the garden as the only light (other than the firebox of course) in the kiln shed.  The following morning was beautiful.  And we finished just before another storm blew in to start the days downpour/sunshine rotation all over again.  

Can’t wait to unload and see how everything looks.

Lessons Learned

So… last week I showed you some of my favorite results from the last kiln firing.  Today, I want so show some of the things I wasn’t so fond of.  

In this firing I had a number of larger bowls with slip chatter design in the bottom.  Most of them turned out great, but a few had some significant bloating.  It’s hard to see in this photo, but this is probably the largest bloat at approximately the size of a quarter.  The bowl was at the front of the kiln near the bagwall.  

Speaking of bloating… check this one out.  The side photographed was facing the fire and just above the bagwall.

 The entire top part of the kiln fired a little hotter than usual this time.  On top, cone 10 was touching the shelf while on the bottom it was just getting soft.  Contributing factor to the bloating issue?  Not really sure, but I’m going with that thought for now and hope to really keep an eye on the next firing to keep the top and bottom closer as well as making sure nothing in the front hangs over the edge of the shelf.  We’ll see if that helps.

My last disappointment was with the Woodfire Porcelain I was testing.  Its a great clay body to work with, but my disappointment came with the lack of color in the firing.  The bare clay stayed pretty white through the firing and I guess I was just hoping it would take on a more toasty color.  I don’t necessarily dislike the color of white clay, but I can get that effect in my electric kiln.

If made from B clay, the mug in the photo below would have been a golden brown with black dots rather than just white with black dots.  Lesson learned… I like my B-clay and Buff Stoneware.

Now to apply these lessons for my next firing.  That’s always the hardest part.  If anyone has any suggestions on the bloating, I’d love to hear them.  Be well.

February 2013 Wood fire

Last weekend Becky Brandow from Willow Avenue Pottery joined me for a wintery wood fire.  Yesterday, I unloaded the kiln and spent a little time taking photos. 

Every firing has it’s good and bad outcomes – here are some of my favorites pieces. 

A couple slip decorated bowls glazed with amber celadon.

Snowflake impressed tile with turquoise glass


Random other things

And my favorite Becky item… you’ll have to watch her blog 
for more of her work from this firing.
As I mentioned, not everything turns out as you’d hoped and I’ll discuss those in my next post after I’ve had a little time to explore the hows and whys of my disappointment in them as well as what can be learned and improved.  
Have a great week.

Wintery Firing & Giveaway Reminder

I just finished up a winter woodfiring with my friend Rebecca Brandow of Willow Avenue Pottery.  Becky pushed the kiln through a stall at around 2000 degrees to get this firing done.  Way to go Becky!!.

Here is a the last picture we took while holding the kiln at temp so the bottom part of the kiln could catch up to the temp on the top of the kiln.  Cone 10 is on the left, cone 11 center and cone 12 to the right.

And just a reminder… my Blog Anniversary Giveaway ends on the 15th.  To find out how you can win one of these pendants, click here.

Firing #7

Bright and early this morning we buttoned up our 7th firing of the wood kiln.  We loaded it up on Saturday afternoon.  Went out for dinner with friends and then on Sunday morning we started the firing.  

It was a little chilly so I spent most of the morning sitting in front of the fire box adding small pieces of wood until it got too hot to sit there.  

After 24 hours of firing, cone 11 was starting to go on the top shelf and 10 was bent on the bottom.

Do you have to wonder why someone who knows they are going to get just plain filthy firing, decides to wear a white sweatshirt?  Because my “It’s OK if I’m dirty, I’m a potter” sweatshirt wasn’t around.  It makes perfect sense. 

Kiln Opening Party Slideshow Video

During the Bluff Country Studio Art Tour last month, we hosted a kiln opening party.  It was a great time to have so many people around to share my “Christmas morning” and a few beers. Watching the video, it appears I spent most of the time making faces, but I swear in each of the photos I was actually talking so it was just motor mouth funny faces, not “I’m a dork” funny faces.  Honestly!!!

Catching up

I haven’t written anything in a while because I’ve been super busy.  No apologies, just got lots of things to get ya all caught up on happenings here.

Two weekends ago, we fired the wood kiln with a load we planned to unload during the Bluff Country Studio Art Tour the following weekend.  We had great weather and the firing went well.  This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday we had a great time hosting visitors during the studio tour, even if the weather was cold and windy.  On Saturday night, a couple dozen friends and clients joined us for a kiln opening party.  Our favorite people, good food, wine & beer and a kiln opening – what could be better?  

I’m working on a slide show of all the wonderful photos and video friends took during the party.  But in the meantime, enjoy these teaser photos. 

Pots from March Firing

If you don’t already know this about me, I’m always a little behind.   I figure if I get a post up about a firing sometime before I have the next firing, I’m good.  Posting the same week I unload would probably be getting it done early don’t ya think?  

So here are some of my favorites we unloaded last Friday.  
 Bottle fired on it’s side on the bagwall

 New glaze on a tumbler – it’s Turquoise Matte Blue

 Amber Celadon square plate with a stamped imprint

 Fluted bowl – a sort of rough first attempt

 This rectangle tray was fired with three small salt shakers on it creating the shadows.

And every firing has to have a few pendants.  The oribe are my favorites and the one dark one is a little used glaze her Persimmon.  I’ll have to use that one more.

Overall the firing was a little vanilla for me.  Since the last firing had a pretty strong reduction, I didn’t reduce as heavily this time and went a little to far the other way and didn’t reduce enough.  Lots of pots glazed with shino but no shino magic in this firing.  Some will get refired in the next firing and we’ll see how they handle it.  

Be well everybody.

March, 2012 Woodfiring

I’m pretty much perpetually behind, but today I did a little catching up.  I managed to get some week old pots I’ve had under plastic trimmed.  Now it’s time to tell a little bit about my firing last weekend.

Fellow potter/blogger Rebecca Brandow (Becky) of Willow Avenue Pottery in Panora Iowa joined me for a woodfiring.  We had perfect weather and Kevin and I very much enjoyed Becky’s help and company. 

Friday was glazing day.  I added several new glazes for this firing so in addition to the pots, there were a number of glaze sample tiles in this firing.

By mid-day Saturday, we pretty much had everything wadded and loaded in the kiln.  Kevin made us some delicious potato soup for lunch and we started a fire.  While putting a layer of mud and newspaper over the door bricks we couldn’t resist putting this cheery cow picture front and center.  Seeing it made me smile every time I looked at it. 

We put Becky’s favorite vase on the bagwall near a peep hole so she could keep a watchful eye on it through the firing.  

Sunday we finished up and Becky made her long drive home probably grateful she’d be hundreds of miles away and not tempted to peek in at the results in a slowly cooling kiln.  
All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend, with perfect weather, hard work, and lots of conversation about pots, being a potter, life in general and a few Minnesota/Iowa jokes. 
As a matter of fact, I was so busy talking and explaining things while bricking up the door, I totally forgot to put leave the lower spy hole pulled out a little bit so it could be pulled out.  I didn’t think of it until we’d already had a fire in the firebox so we had couldn’t keep an eye on the lower set of cones during the firing.  Just another stupid thing I’ve done in a long list of stupid things.  Probably won’t make that mistake again.  Thanks Becky for not including that in your blog post and you’re always welcomed back.

Bluff Country Studio Art Tour’s blog

Repost from Bluff Country Studio Art Tour Blog


Artists Stop #8

Artists Stop #8 on the 2012 Bluff Country Studio Art Tour is where you will find Sue Pariseau Pottery.  Sue’s functional stoneware can be  found at 40051 County Rd 12, Lanesboro, Minnesota.   Her work  features a diverse palette ranging from beautiful earthy wood fired pieces to brightly colored oxidation pieces and many shades in between.

Saturday evening (April 28th) from 5pm to 8pm Sue will be hosting a Kiln Opening party to unload her bourry box wood-fired kiln. For those who have seen or will see the kiln firing at Allamakee Wood-fired Pottery, this is a nice follow-up event to see the unloading of a kiln.  Plus, you’ll have the first opportunity to buy pots fresh out of the kiln.

Don’t miss this activity packed tour stop, the kiln opening party or the opportunity to grab fresh pots just out of the kiln.

Rope Look?

Been having some fun with simple thumb dents on the bottom of some baking dishes this weekend.  It sort of makes a rope like look around the base.  These bakers will be wood fired so the simple texture around the base won’t distract from the magic the fire creates on the pieces. 

In addition to the bakers, I’ve got about a dozen salt and peppers on drying boards and a bisque running.  It was a fun and productive weekend.

What I learned from my last kiln firing

With my kiln being fairly new, I’ve been changing a little something each firing to try to find a firing process and schedule that works the best for me and my work.  The first firing was… well, it was the first firing.  So kinda set the baseline.  The second firing we did a stronger reduction around 1350* and then again when we bricked up.  That firing had a great deal more reduction color changes in the glazes (not necessarily in a positive way) and more ash than the first firing. 

So now in firing #3, we did a little less reduction than firing #2 and fired for an additional couple hours.  The pieces didn’t have as much ash on them as the previous two firings, but also didn’t have the same unwanted reduction effects. 

Here are a few things I learned from this firing:

  • Sawdust has the amazing ability to get in all kinds of places it doesn’t belong.  When you first realize sawdust has gotten into one of those places, stop everything and remove it.  The fight to get the 50 degrees back the kiln dropped while you’re cleaning out your sports bra is well worth it compared to the irritation the “girls” experience if you leave the sawdust.  (I know, too much info!)
  • It doesn’t matter if the weather is great (July firing had 100+ degree heat index when we were reaching top temp) – the last few hours are still tiring.
  • I’m still not really getting the result I’d hoped for from the Laura’s Turquoise glaze so I think that will be abandon for future firings.  Always need to re-evaluate glaze, what works well, what doesn’t and what you don’t need to deal with anymore.
  • Unloading is still like Christmas.
  • You can’t have enough little kiln fillers like pendants and buttons.
  • It’s fun having visitors during the firing, but if I actually had a couple beers with them, I’d not be able to stay awake to fire.  Tough decision.

 I’m sure there is so much more I could add to the list, the key point is I did manage to learn something.  

The next firing is anticipated to be Thanksgiving weekend and I’m thinking of trying a shorter firing like maybe 18 hours.  Start around 6am and close up at 2am the following morning. I can hardly wait!!

September 2011 Wood Firing

Two weekends ago we fired the wood kiln.  And because the kiln is at our rural SE Minnesota farm (nearly two hours away from our weekday home) we didn’t get to unload until the following weekend.  Having two studio spaces can be fun, but it usually means lots of patience and driving. 

This load had 122 pieces plus some small pendants and buttons (they don’t really count because they just fit in the nooks and crannies between larger pieces).  The above photo is about 1/2 the pieces getting ready to be glazed.  Most of these pieces are glazed on the inside only to allow the wood ash to do its magic on the outsides.
Early in the firing when everything is just starting to get hot, but ash is floating through the kiln on the flames, you can see the ash being deposited on pieces closest to the firebox.  It looks like dust collecting until it gets hot enough to melt.

We had several visitors during this firing which always makes the time spent stoking go a little faster.  The Kolnberger family visited on Saturday evening.  Sydney enjoyed sitting in the glow of the firebox and absorbing some of the heat rolling out. 

During the firing and again during the unloading, we had cameramen from KSMQ’s Off 90 program here shooting video for a potential segment on their story telling program about people, places and events off I90.  During the firing they were using a big TV camera, I think I accidentially splashed glaze on it a few times.  For the unloading, they used a smaller SLR-like camera and it was easier to forget the camera was there. 

I haven’t gotten to really sort through and photograph the pieces that came out of that firing, but here is one of my favorites.  Hopefully, I’ll get through things soon and have another post of just photos. 
Be well everybody!!

Different Results

The second firing of my wood kiln occurred the weekend of July 2 & 3. While the first firing had several different clay bodies and glazes, this time I just firing a couple of my favorites clay bodies from the first firing and a couple less glazes. To experience this firing with us we had lots of wonderful friends join us for the final few hours of the firing. Most hadn’t seen a kiln like this in action and were amazed at the workings, not to mention the heat coming off it on a July day.

The results of this firing were so different from the first, its hard to believe the clays, glazes and kiln are the same. The duration of this firing was also about the same as the first, around 24 hours but many other aspects of the firing were different. We put the kiln through a period of heavy reduction in this firing which definitely made some glazes react differently. All the green celadon was a copper red instead – not a bad look, but different. We also spend a little more time stirring the ashes a bit to get more ash moving through the kiln making the pieces from B clay much lighter on the outside than the toasty color they’d been in the first firing.

All in all there were many wonderful pieces in this firing and we learned a lot again. Plus we got to share this process with our friends. They’ve heard us talk so much about the kiln (picture that commercial with the older couple sitting on their couch talking about another family that always talks about their boat – it’s probably a lot the same) and seeing it is much better than any explanation.

Thanks for joining us everybody. We really enjoy your company and friendship.

Next week

With a wood fire scheduled for next weekend, today was really the last day I could throw anything to be included in that firing. I know… always waiting until the last minute. Have you been talking to my husband?!?

Anyway, in addition to several medium size bowls, cups and wine bottle coasters, I threw a few large pieces today. Not sure if they’ll be dry in time to bisque before the firing, but I’ve got my fingers crossed. I could really use a little help from the weather – NO MORE RAIN!!! Please

The bowl below doesn’t look that big in the photo but it’s about 16 inches across. I always need at least one big bowl in my inventory.

The plan is to run a bisque kiln on Wednesday, unload on Thursday, start glazing on Friday and load the kiln and start a fire mid-day Saturday (which really means sometime before midnight – right?).

Interested in checking out a wood firing? If you can make it to SE Minnesota near Lanesboro, you’re welcome to stop by.

Be well.

Long time no blog…

What can I say – sometimes time gets away from me. I think I read somewhere recently, that’s one of the ways to know you’re really enjoying what you’re doing. Well, I must be having a blast, because I’ve completely forgotten about posting some of the new creations from the studio. BAD BLOGGER!

With the arrival of spring, I’ve started the time of year characterized by very little time in my home studio and more time spent at the farm studio. Here are a few oblong pieces I made a week ago at the farm. They’ve been drying slowly so as not to develop any cracks. We’ll see how that plan worked after they’ve been bisqued. These are about 15″ – 16″ long. One has a ruffled rim, while the other has a split rim. They are fun to make.

This past weekend, I made several bottles and vases with slip stripes down the sides. I’m getting ready for a second firing of the wood kiln the weekend before July 4th and I’m hoping to have more of these made for that firing. Also in the background of the vase are a few oblong vases with a stamped decoration on the front.

Well, there you have it – that’s what I’ve been up to. Hope you’re having a great spring and I’ll try to not be so lost in the studio I don’t keep in touch.

Be well.