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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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Wood firing at Guldagergaard

I am now midway through my residency at Guldagergaard. We had a busy week firing two of the wood kilns. Ana, a Spanish artist and I got up early and started the fire at 5am. The pyrometer wasn’t working so we had no idea how quickly the temperature was rising, although we could see an orange glow inside the kiln. When the wood firing technicians arrived at 9am and put in a new thermocouple, we were amazed to find we had already reached 1100°C, a very fast increase in temperature indeed, so we were lucky that nothing had cracked. We had to let the temperature drop to 1000°C to do body reduction by adding hardwood, closing the dampers and restricting the air intake for an hour.

Firing the Speedy soda kiln

When we reached 1280°C Ollie the wood firing technician sprayed in a solution of soda ash in water. The soda reacts with the silica and alumina in the clay to produce a glossy glaze. We soaked the kiln at top temperature for several hours to even out the temperature between the top and bottom of the kiln. Ollie sprayed soda again and we finally put in more wood and closed up the kiln so that the glazes would be in reduction.

Ollie spraying soda
Glaze results

The next day we fired the Bourry box train kiln. This is a slightly larger kiln that encourages effects from wood ash falling and melting on the pots and flames from the burning wood flashing the surface orange.

Cones 8,9,10

The results were much more matt and crusty where wood ash and embers had fallen onto the pots.

Cone 8 and lichen effect glazes

I was very happy with some of the results but surprised by some of the glaze colours that had changed owing to the effects of reduction. My mustard yellow glaze turned black and my dark green lichen glaze turned blue-green.

The Bourry box train kiln