Great firing, even greater crew!

The work coming out of the first firing of the new Bourry box kiln was fantastic.  It was just a wonderful group of people who will stay in touch.  Mike Astill has his own wood kiln in Ile des Chenes but joined us (he is a fabulous former student from the School) and entertained many of the crew while they were here from out of town.  Thanks, Mike and Maria!

The firing survived the old soda shelves that oozed soda and are so brittle they could cut someone’s arm off if broken.  We love Markus’s wadding recipe because it flakes off easily.  His glazes were amazing as were some of the ones the crew brought. There is good biidoro at the lower level which reached well beyond cone 13.  And the kiln fires like a rocket.  Might have said, we had to slow it down by soaking the poplar logs.  We will modify the bagwall, use a smaller shelf on the top and not load the pots so near the roof to even out the temperature.  Everyone was happy!  What a way to end 9 days together – not wanting to leave.

Friday: Day 8 Markus Boehm gives an artist talk for the workshop participants

Thursday afternoon Markus was checking the state of the ember bed in the firebox of the kiln he designed for the School of Art.  For those who have been reading this blog, you will know that we set out to build a new Bourry Box for the ceramics students that would be highly efficient to fire.  Our deadline was building the kiln and firing it in 7 days.  The team succeeded.  A visitor today asked me how I felt.  My first response was ‘Vindicated’ because no one believed that this could really happen.  But what I really feel, after the adrenalin rush of the success, is sheer joy for the students who will enjoy the dedication and hard work of the team for years to come.  Now we need a kiln shed, a cover for the wood, and a secure area where we can pre-heat this kiln.

The Danish White clay we have been using withstood the high temperatures and the flashing from the wood created a rich rust colour on the unglazed surfaces of the test rings.

Today, Markus gave an artist talk about the evolution of his work, the importance of knowing the tea ceremony in order to make tea bowls and the difference in training between Canada and Germany.

Tomorrow we open the kiln after lunch.  Markus will discuss the results with everyone, wares will be packed and the workshop will officially be over.  What a fantastic ten days.

Happy Canada Day everyone!

Day 7. Kiln Built and Fired in one week. Cone 12. 13 hours firing. Used ONLY half a cord of wood. What an incredible group and give it up for Markus Boehm-it truly is a smokeless kiln!!!!!!!!!!!

Believe it or not, with all the heat, the sweat, the need for a shower – when the kiln reached temperature, it was almost disbelief by those standing doing the last shifts. Amazing group of people who then dug in and cleaned up the kiln pad and who can’t wait to hear a talk by Markus tomorrow and see the results late Saturday.

Stay tuned!

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.

End of Day 5: The Kiln is Finished! Matt Boyd laid the last brick in the last course of the chimney around 4:45pm. Wow.

Everyone has either brought bisque work or created objects that will be loaded tomorrow.  The kiln will be fired with dry Poplar logs on Thursday for about 14 hours so that we can reach cone 14.

Markus mixed up some amazing short bodied heavily grogged clay.  All of the participants and Markus worked on the wheels (Diane Laluk made masks) and those vessels have been drying in the kiln room or out in the sun to be loaded tomorrow raw.  Can’t wait to see how the lick of the flames changes them.

It has been a great experience.  Everyone seems to have much more confidence, realized talents and muscles they hadn’t used for awhile, and made some new friends.  You literally could feel the ‘cooperation and respect’.

Now if you are looking for some experience building a similar kiln and live near Maple Creek Saskatchewan, get in touch with Zach and Adrienne at Smiling Cow Studios.  They already have their pad ready and will start the build in about a week.  Zach is an incredibly nice guy – drive over and give them a hand.  I am certain that they would come and help you!  Pass along this information to anyone that you know.

This Bourry box kiln with the extended throat should fire beautifully using little wood.  It is time to think of the environment and to slow down.  Will post some of the images when the pieces come out of the kiln!  There are going to be some beauties!

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.

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.