The students are fabulous at problem solving. Alexandra took her knowledge of wood burning stoves to set up a schedule for the second team to mix the oak and the scrap wood for optimum heat and then for the third team, Monique designed a sandwich of a layer of poplar or pine, then oak, and then a layer of poplar and pine again. The temperature rose nicely but stalled and then we used only a mixture of poplar and pine to finish the firing. Ms Zhang cannot wait to open the kiln; she noticed all the beautiful colours in the ember bed. And once again we are all grateful to Keith and his table saw and Matt for bringing batteries that worked for the Oxyprobe. All of the students showed up and the first entry in the log book showed that the temperature today was warmer than when we fired in October. The wind wasn’t a problem either. The only nuisance was the damp.
Wool really helped! There was food and laughter and well…did I say blessed? We will open the kiln together on Friday but it is hard to wait. Oh, and leave it to Monique – she decided to burn an entire pallet!
The students in the wood fire class at the School of Art fired their first kiln load a month ago. It was so cold that day and the wind just whipped through our coats right to the bone with a sharp chill. It is hard to believe but it will actually be warmer in Winnipeg tomorrow when this kiln is fired. How many times have I said that we are blessed?
The students did a great job. Julia cleared the entire kiln courtyard of snow before Monique and Kendra started loading. Jiawei, Kewan, and Hyounjung helped to sort all of the work and everyone pitched in wadding work if it needed it. We loaded the kiln keeping in mind that The Laidback Wood Fire book by my friend Steve Harrison says to place the bag wall in the front. Markus Bohm puts it at the back and in the end Steve has abandoned a bag wall altogether and gone with a tight stack in the middle. Ours is a combination of all of those. Pots were placed in the extended throat to slow and move the flames about. Kewan’s arches are helping to keep the flames contained on the floor at the back and on the first shelf. We listened and did not load the top as tight as we did before and there is room all around for the flames to travel. Fingers crossed. These students have worked hard and learned a lot – although I doubt if they fully comprehend all that they have learned yet. Sara, Anastasia, and Alexandra put the finishing touches on bricking up the door. It all starts in the wee hours of the morning when Sara does the gas pre-heat. Stay posted…firing pictures to follow on Sunday. We unload the kiln on Friday with high hopes.
The anticipation was in the air as wood firing potters began arriving in the village of La Borne for the Third European Wood Fire Conference. The first was held in Brollin Germany in 2010 and the second at Guldagergaard in Denmark in 2014. From the looks of things, the French have studied both of those conferences and have things well in hand.
La Borne is home to the Contemporary Ceramic Institute, which helps. The main building holds a sales area for all of the members of the institute plus one of the finest book shops focused entirely on ceramics I have ever seen. There are both French and English sections. Oh, if books weren’t so heavy! There is, in addition, approximately 1000 sq feet of exhibition space. Behind this is the kiln shed with three different types of wood burning kilns. Tents have been set up, t-shirts have been printed, and only the French would think of building a kiln out of wine bottles. Down the road is the museum linking today’s potters with those who were working here in medieval times. There are maps showing the directions to the individual potter’s studios that are open for tours. To combat what might be a lack of restaurants – after all – hundreds are planning to descend on this sleepy pottery village –
many have set up cafes in their garden. Some are even selling homemade jam. And as I write to you I am enjoying the end of season strawberries so sweet and tiny along with a chocolate croissant and strong cup of coffee. Life could not be any better!
Stay posted. I will try and fit in the week’s events on a bi-daily basis!
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.
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 permit is in hand, the materials are on site or on their way, and excitement is beginning to stir. It is just 16 days away from the first day of the wood kiln workshop at the School of Art, University of Manitoba. I have opened up 2 additional spaces for another lucky 2 people to join us. If you know of anyone, please let me know. The fee is $325 – a bargain. If you are coming from out of town, there is accommodation at St John College for $55 per day and that includes three meals. Feel free to contact me for further information or any questions you might have. It is a great group coming from Budapest, Vancouver, Maple Creek, Red Deer and Winnipeg!
The School of Art at the University of Manitoba is hosting a Bourry box kiln building workshop with Markus Boehm from June 21-30. It will be a one cubic metre kiln and participants are asked to bring pieces for the firing. The fee is $325. Spaces are limited and are on a first come basis. Please e-mail me of your interest: firstname.lastname@example.org
Markus Boehm lives in Alt Gaarz, Germany where he has his studio and a sales shop and gallery. In 1989 he passed the rigorous state examinations of the GDR to receive his master potters certification. Boehm was the driving force behind the First European Wood Fire Conference in Brollin, Germany in 2010, an event that was so successful it spread to Denmark for 2014 and to France for August 2018.