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Wood firing at Kigbeare in Devon

Anagama kiln at Kigbeare

Recently I took part in a wood firing at Kigbeare in Devon. The firing took five days and involved seven potters. We each took 4 hour shifts, with 8 hours off in between. I did shifts with Deborah Mitchell who had fired the kiln before. First we stoked from the front of the kiln and later from the sides. Unusually, the anagama kiln designed and built by Svend Bayer has five sets of side-stoking ports, one on each side between each stack of pots, so that it’s easier to get the back of the kiln up to temperature. We used oak, ash and pine wood cleared from the nearby golf course and started reduction by closing the damper at 800 C, maintaining reduction all the way up to the top temperature around 1280 C when cone 12 stared to bend.

Anagama kiln at Kigbeare

My celadon glazed porcelain pieces were on two shelves in the middle of the stack near the back of the anagama. One of my vases was placed on its side resting on cockle shells. The other pieces were placed on balls of wadding made from china clay mixed with alumina so that the melted wood ash from the firing would not stick them to the kiln shelf. I shared the stack with Poplini and Jezando and Jessica Mason. The pots at the back of the kiln are by Charlie Collier.

Rebecca Proctor side stoking the anagama. The flames coming out at the top show there is good reduction.

My porcelain pots unloaded from the kiln with some of Jessica Mason’s pots on the far left. Mine are glazed with celadon and satin matt white. The good reduction throughout the firing caused the celadon to come out a lovely pale blue. Some of the pots stuck to the wadding but I managed to grind them off. There were hints of orange flashing on the bases of pots where the soluble salts carried by the flames reacted with the clay body. It was a very successful firing for all the potters.

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Finished work at Guldagergaard

I have really enjoyed my month at Guldagergaard. In my final weeks I fired the Speedy soda kiln again and took part in firing the anagama. This was a three day firing where we each took a six hour shift. My shift was 6am to 12 noon on the final day. We stoked the kiln every time the temperature started to drop. The front of the kiln near the firebox was much hotter than the back of the kiln, so we tried holding the temperature steady for several hours to bring the back up to temperature. By around 2 am the firing team eventually got the back to cone 9 and the front to cone 11 and sealed up the kiln. After that, we kept the kiln in reduction by stoking with a few sticks of wood every 15 minutes until the following afternoon. The cooling took around five days and we couldn’t unpack the kin until minutes before I had to leave to catch my flight back to London. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

Firing the anagama

I took some photos of my finished pieces outside the studio at Guldagergaard. These pieces were inspired by the lichens growing on trees and rocks around the studio. Guldagergaard means Gold Acre Farm and it used to be an apple orchard before becoming the International Centre for Ceramic Research. These pieces were fired in the Bourry box train kiln and the Speedy soda kiln. The large pieces are made from Scandinavian stoneware and the smallest pieces are English porcelain.

Wood fired pieces inspired by lichens
My piece for the Guldagergaard collection
One of my favourite wood fired pieces
an anagama fired piece