Wishing Everyone the Happiest New Year

The featured image is by Japanese printmaker, Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) (courtesy of the British Museum and WikiCommons). His image captures the tradition of fireworks over the Ryogoku in Tokyo made famous by Utagawa Hiroshige in his One Hundred Views of Edo of 1858, seen below.

The Ryogoku Bridge was one of the most famous bridges that spanned the Sumida River, if not the most famous. Hiroshige repeatedly drew it.

Unlike the fireworks in Western society at New Year’s (and now a tradition also in Asia), those over the Ryogoku Bridge are at the end of summer during the Obon Festival. This Japanese holiday remembers and honours the spirit of the ancestors. This annual celebration often consists of as many as 20,000 separate displays. It began in 1613 when gunpowder was introduced to the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. It is thought that gunpowder and fireworks explosives were a present from the British diplomat acting on behalf of King James I and a Chinese trader. Known as hanabi with hana meaning flower and bi meaning fire, these fire shaped flower displays first took place for the public over the Sumida River in 1733. At that time they were in remembrance of the million people who had died from extreme poverty the year before. They have continued to today where the lights and smoke entertain people for one to two hours as part of the annual summer festival.

It is somewhat fitting to think of the fireworks going off around the world to close 2020 and welcome 2021 as a way of remembering all of the souls lost to SARS-Covid 19 during 2020.

‘She’ is just about finished…needs some tweaking for the next firing. Did we learn anything?

Those of you reading my blog know that the idea for the new Bourry Box kiln came because there was a need for a ‘learning’ kiln.  A kiln that is easy to load, clean, fire and that can be fired numerous times in a short period of time to cone 13/14 and by one or two persons.  We just about did it.  The bagwall will be adjusted, new shelves will be ordered (please don’t use old soda kiln shelves), and a nice coat of Adobe will be spread.  Anyone have any ideas what colour we should tint that Adobe?  And we need some new insulating bricks for the door – we used the ones we had but it takes far too long to mortar them if they are broken.

The kiln requires a proper shed or it will simply deteriorate.  Putting a temporary one up is an option but then people begin to see that this might work and they give up on building one that would cover the space, the ware carts, and the students when they are loading and firing.  Hopefully,  we will have this before winter sets in.  Then the lever and pulley system can be installed allowing for one person to fire.  But, we also need to figure out a way to safely pre-heat the kiln in a public setting.  But, for now, this chimney needs to be attached to the building!

The kiln went up as Markus and I had planned and as we knew that it would.   But others were caught off guard.  You cannot mortar a proper chimney and weld all of the metal supports in two days.  It simply cannot happen with other demands such as the welding of the fibre board firebox lid.  And then if the scaffolding company comes and you haven’t finished, well…I can’t do a tell-all in my blog because in about a year the story of this kiln is going to appear in Ceramics Monthly and, hopefully, it will help others planning a community build.  What I will continue to do is to praise the participants who signed up to learn and help; they were very thankful and repeatedly told me and Markus what a good experience this was.  As I have said many, many times in this blog, it was their motivation, respect, and desire to build something the right way that made this possible (and, of course, Markus).

For now, though, I have to move on.  The ashes from the first firing have been fathered (yes I wore one of those horrible masks) for experiments with Nuka glazes.  I am going to go and see my friend Gunda Stewart in Canyon, BC in mid-July.  She has a beautiful manibigama kiln and her wood-fired domestic vessels are solid.  Then it is Guldagergaard and finally, The Third European Wood Fire Conference is in Le Borne, France at the end of August.  Check it out.  Paul Davis is giving a workshop on Oribe at Sturt (Australia) in early July (won’t be there but some of you might be able to jump on a plane; there are a few spaces left).  There are lots of things happening around the world within the wood fire community.