Wednesday, August 10, 2011

...and then there are really crazy people.

...but that's all over now.  We finished up a fabulous session yesterday, and now pretty much everyone has left, which is kind of depressing.  The next fun item on the agenda will be working the annual Penland Benefit Auction, but I'm getting ahead of myself.  Please note that the lack of pictures in this post is not due to not taking them, but to the inability of the Northlight computer to find them in a speedy enough manner- I'll post them on a more cooperative day.

We started out on a roll by blowing up all of our low temp cone packs for our first firing by not having them quite dry enough for the speed of the kiln- this meant stopping and cooling the kiln, unbricking the door, vacuuming out the cone pack dust and pieces, re-bricking the door...and getting up even earlier the next day to start it again (4:45 am as opposed to 5:45 am- a kiln, an airplane flight or driving to Penland are the only things that will get me out of bed at that ungodly hour).  Once we finally got it going, our first firing, in Ginn-Ginn the new salt kiln, was smooth sailing (none of the gas-leaks, scary-looking door, and other fun that went with firing Ol' Rusty), though when the pots came out, they were not as heavily orange-peeled in texture as Phil had hoped for- and that was with 29 lbs of salt (new kiln!)!

That fiasco with the cone packs meant that the day of rest and sleep, that we had planned to have between firing the salt kiln and firing the wood kiln, evaporated- so instead I slept in until lunch on the first day of the firing (not counting the brief kindling from the night before, an 8 am start time). this still meant that from lunch Thursday, up until lunch Friday when the wood kiln went off,  I had a grand total of one hour of sleep in 24 hours...But then I slept most of the afternoon once we finished the firing!  The firing itself went fairly quickly -we had to hold the kiln back- a big part of this was that the wood was very dry, as no session has fired the wood kiln since last summer.  We did have one cool spot in the back chamber that resisted all attempts at evening out- Phil tried his best to even it by packing the firebox full of wood, pushing the damper in and reducing like crazy (it sounded and looked rather like a dragon with the roaring rumble of the fire, and the 8 feet of flame spouting out of the chimney), but in the end we had to leave it, as cone 11 was down, or low, throughout the rest of the kiln.  What Phil later said must have been the problem was that the back stack was placed too close to one side, thus creating the cold spot.  With the under-fired exception of that one corner, the pots from that firing came out beautifully- not heavily salted (we added no salt beyond the residual on the walls of the second chamber), but nice and toasty, with nice flame movement over the pots.

Our last firing was in Julia's kiln, which was enjoyable for me because it was the first one that I really felt that I had some significant participation in, and (ready, session 6ers?) I Love This Kiln!  The pots that came out were beautiful too- nice and warm, with a varied surface; a little more variety than in the first salt...just nice.  12ish lbs of salt.  I Love This Kiln!

After all the firings, and indeed throughout the session, I was very impressed by the eagerness of the students to volunteer and contribute to get things done and to clean up in a prompt fashion- no chasing people down, just "what can I do?".

All four of us assistants, plus the wonderful Susan the clay coordinator, spent today cleaning the studio like OCD crazy people- the school is having a lunch for its more generous donors in the clay studio (?!) on auction weekend, so it needed to be spotless.  FYI- that floor was mopped 2-3 times by the students on clean-up day, 3 more times by us assistants today, and will be mopped several more times by a volunteer crew tomorrow.  All I can say is that the incoming session 6ers have the cleanest floor of the year- enjoy it.


  1. I love that kiln too! Great blog, Sarah! - Vince

  2. We all love that kiln, Princess! Thank you to you and Julia for giving it to us.