‘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.

Kiln Pre-Heat, Full firing tomorrow!

When you have a kiln building workshop, many things can happen.  This firing has been ‘blessed’ as we have averted so many disasters.  It was pouring for hours in South Osborne last Saturday (if it was Sunday, apologies as the days are beginning to run together) and we had only enough small drops to cool us off at the University.  But, last night, it was the reverse.  It poured and there was lightening.  Still, things were ‘not so bad’.  Then through a couple of heavy-duty miscommunications with the log provider and a hard drive that had crashed with supporting messages gone into the ether, we had to live with an assortment of logs instead of ones 1 metre long or 3 metres long.  But, give it up to the group to just say ‘hey, things happen’.  They all deserve several days at Thermae Spa here in the ‘peg.  I wish I had free passes for them.

Ah, and there is something very different in pre-heating a kiln in Canada and one in the EU.  Regulations require a propane torch with a thermocouple and a safety valve in the EU.  In other words, you do not have to babysit the burner all night long.  The folks over at Physical Plant looked – I think every department got involved from Plumbing to Heating trying to help me find a remedy.  We do have safety valves on the new tanks but this is on the torch itself.  I think when I go to the European Wood Fire Conference in LeBorne, France in August, I will pick one up for us.  It would be so nice to skip one step.  Still, there will be other security issues that might not allow a burner to be left unattended in a public building anyway.

Everyone was busy working on one thing or another today to make this firing on time.  Tomorrow, the Director delivers pizza and Caesar Salad and, somehow, this evening I got a second wind and made lemon rosemary cupcakes.  It will be hot so here’s hoping the icing will stand up.  Speaking of standing up, everyone learned on day 1 to wear a hat in the sun.  Did I?  Today, 5 hours out there sent me home with one of those ‘you idiot you didn’t wear a hat, you had too much sun and got dehydrated sick feelings’.  Tomorrow will be another day – with a hat.  More photos of the action to come.  Send us all your good wishes for the kiln firing as sweet as we think it will – and please send the rain somewhere it is needed, at least until late tomorrow night.

Need a chimney built? Rebecca Wong from Vancouver can really swing a mallet. Helping out is Zach Quin, Smiling Cow Studio, Maple Creek Saskatchewan

It is Day 4.  The arch of the main chamber is up and cast.  Tomorrow there will be lots of welding and the chimney will go up while the lid to the firebox is cast…everything looks like it is a go for a firing on Thursday.  Fingers crossed!

If you are looking for a great kiln builder that knows the importance of using good materials so your kiln will last, the need to save the environment (less wood) and someone who can truly build a smokeless kiln, then look no further than Markus Boehm.

Day 3: This is where the work began this morning and when everyone went home at 7, all of the arches were cast and curing. This crew is amazing!

This is one of the best teams of human beings I have ever seen.  End of Day 3 they had all of the arches cast that connect the firebox to the main chamber and the main chamber to the chimney.  Sara and Matt handled the metal and the welding.  Everyone pounded mortar and each and everyone knows precisely how to use a trowel and how to mortar bricks properly.  This is an amazing team.  And that team is Matt Boyd (the technician at Red Deer College), Emily Wolverton (4th year ceramics student SOA), Jen Obst (Red Deer College), Lin Xu (ceramics prof from Brandon University), Donna Garofolo (former ceramics student SOA and now an art therapist), Mike Astill (potter and former student SOA in ceramics), Diane Laluk (artist and former student SOA), Rebecca Wong (Vancouver, graduated from the Faculty of Architecture, U of M), Zach Quinn (runs Smiling Cow Studio, Maple Creek, Saskatchewan), Sara Berg (4th year ceramics student SOA and an amazing welder!), and Markus Boehm (team leader and master potter, Alt Gaarz, Germany).  Give it up for all of them!  If you know any of these fantastic individuals, send them a note.  They are truly making a difference for the students at the School of Art.  I hear that already there is double the demand for the wood kiln course in the fall.  It wouldn’t happen at all without this big effort.  I am so impressed.

 

The Rocky Road to the New Kiln

The old train kiln’s chimney was leaning like the tower of Pisa and, in fact, Markus Boehm called it the ‘Pisa chimney’ quite often as he thought about the design for our new wood kiln at the School.  The brief was:  had to be able to be fired by only 1 or 2 students in a period of time that they were not exhausted plus some ash effects.  The old kiln was worn out, its bricks had expanded and contracted and without mortar, it was leaking air like a sieve.  The last firing that the students did with Martin Tagseth’s special workshop for the Ceramics Club took around 48 hours but the temperature was uneven with the front reading cone 8/9 and the back cold and the work oxidized.  Our director, Paul Hess, had already decided it was time for a new one in the fall of 2017.

Through a series of events, the School wound up having to get a permit at the 9th hour.  Kudos to Scott Shank, Andrew Sinclair, and the amazing structural engineer whose name I forget (complete apologies).  They took Markus’s sketch, turned it into a detailed drawing and it was stamped by the engineer and presented to the City of Winnipeg for approval.  This was May 11.  Our workshop starts on June 21.  We need materials!  What if we didn’t get our permit?  Some of the participants already had their airline tickets.  I never thought of myself as too anxious a person but this was beginning to cause me to worry.  There were quite a number of people holding their breath.  We kept the faith.  Chris Pancoe ordered the materials that Markus had specified.  Some were coming from Georgia in the US.  The rail strike lingered but was resolved.  Whew!  Everything just seemed like it might be going our way.  Accommodation for the workshop participants was found at St John’s College.  Now, where can you stay for $55 a night including 3 meals?  [They are even making box lunches for the five of them so that they can work through the standard time and not have to leave the construction site.]  The permit came the third week of May.  Materials were to arrive June 18 and 19 – and they did!  It all came together.  The workshop participants arrived from across Canada and from Winnipeg, many current or former students of either the School of Art or the Faculty of Architecture.  They are a great team.  It was inspiring to watch them learn from and work with Markus yesterday.  Stay posted.  The logs arrive today for our firing of the kiln on Thursday the 28th.  I will keep you posted on the progress.

 

One space in the kiln building workshop opened up!

Sadly, one of our participants is unable due to an illness in their family.  So if you have been hoping to be part of this amazing workshop with Markus Boehm and missed out, now is your chance.  The cost is $325.  If you are coming from out of town, we have arranged accommodation and three meals per day at St John’s College for only $55.  What a bargain!  And their food is good, too.  Best on campus most days.

So get in touch:  maryannsteggles@icloud.com

Julia Nema, Budapest ceramic artist, will join Markus Boehm in Winnipeg to build the new wood kiln for the School

Julia Nema is one of the most respected wood fire potters.  She has a studio in Budapest and was recently featured in an article ‘Welcome to Budapest’.  Julia has been firing her work in a Phoenix Fast Fire Kiln.  She now needs to build a new kiln in an urban area, so she is joining us to learn how to build this smokeless kiln designed by Markus Boehm.

I am so pumped that she will be able to join us.  You can check out her work online.  Really beautiful dinnerware used by some of the finest restaurants in the Budapest.  If you go to Budapest, please check out her studio.  And if you are thinking about joining us for the wood kiln building workshop and firing from June 21-30, she is another reason to come.  We had two cancellations so spread the word there is now another opportunity if you thought you missed out!  Contact me:  maryannsteggles@icloud.com

Photo credit:  LB9 kep