Wood Firing: Journeys and Techniques

For many potters, wood is more than just a source of heat for a kiln, it’s a process and even a way of life. Wood firing provides a link for ceramic artists to their surroundings and to pottery’s beginnings thousands of years ago...(Scroll for more.)

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Softcover | 132 Pages
Order code B018 | ISBN 978-1-57498-143-8


…Wood Firing: Journeys and Techniques relates the experiences of individual potters who have sought to reconnect with a basic technology in our hi-tech society, and who strive to explore and master all the possible variables this technique provides. Here you’ll find wood-firing ceramic artists discussing the kilns they’ve built, the lessons they’ve learned and revealing the ups and downs of the lifestyle.

Many potters, many stories

It’s All One Meditation provides insights, recipes, kiln schematics and a philosophy that unites Gil Stengel’s life and work. He contends that if someone were to force him to pick just one narrow area in which to work for the rest of his clay life, it would probably be salt-fired porcelain. He likes the way salt freexes the action of tclay in a potter’s hands and there is an endless subtlety to the movement of fingers through porcelain that he never tires of seeing.

Wood-Fire Apologia answers the question of why we make pots but more importantly why fire with wood. Wood firing is a slow porcess and the pots have a richness and depth that can never be matched with gas. And with a large kiln, firing is a rare occurrence that requires your full attention both mentally and physically.

Magic and Ash describes working with an anagama. Located in Australia, she spent 6 years firing with gas to earn enough to tackle a wood-fired kiln, and the anagama design allows for variations with stacking and stoking.

A Journey with Fire relates working with a fire-breathing dragon. He reminisces on the many firings in his wood kiln and on the many lessons learned, understanding better not only how the firing can breathe life into the clay, but also how the piece can record the life of the fie and the myriad of subtle events that take place during the firing.

A New Collaboration provides schematics of climbing, crossdraft kiln. Based on kilns he used while working in Japan, his 75 cu. ft. kiln is taller and shorter than a traditional anagama and built above ground with a simple tunnel arch. Larry Davidson is a self-sufficient potter out of New Mexico who incorporates wood firing as a part of his lifestyle. He discusses the various methods he uses in his pottery and includes clay and glaze recipes used in his wood fired pieces. Brian Van Nostrand lives on a mountain top and operates aq 150 cu. ft. triple cross-draft wood-fire kiln. He describes his working methods from mixing clay through the firing process.His lifestyle is one of simplicity and a genuine connection to the medium of clay. He uses several bodies and includes recipes along with those of his main glazes.

Cary Hulin is an Ohio potter located in Amish country. His teardrop shaped cross-draft kiln used 10,000 bricks for construction and features doors at the front as well as the rear for easy access during loading and unloading. It takes Cary 3 months and 5000 pounds of clay to fill the kiln and a kiln opening usually disappears rapidly.

Joy Brown uses a wood-fired kiln to achieve a unique effect on unglazed figures. After attending school iin Florida, she headed to Japan to work first for toshiro Ichino, the Tamba potter, then Morioka. At Tamba she learned the discipline required of potters in Japan. She provides a demonstration of making her signature sculptures and her firing process.

Shiho Kanazaki: Extending the Tradition is a story of the Japanese wood fire tradition through the experiences of one of Japan’s most renowned potters. Kanazaki maintains that it is the artist’s responsibility to always pursue a better thin — to grow to be better than before. Beginning with a blend of Shigarakin and Iga styles, Kanazaki has added his own variation.

Wood Firing in Maryland features the work, recipes and kiln design concepts of Dan Finnegan and Bill van Gilder. Their work “shows the fire” which totally reveals the pot — good or bad — unlike a gas kiln that only shows the fire when the kiln firing screws up.

Nanban is a snake kiln and has roots in ancient China. Proper firing of the 7-chamber snake kiln is difficult and the example here uses 6 tons of wood firing for three weeks and a year’s worth of work. Not that anyone would tackle this, but just knowing it’s done is worthwhile just for the discussion at the next cocktail party.

A Noborigama in the Colorado Mountains tells the story of Mark Zamantakis and provides technical information on a 3-chamber hill climbing noborigama. He discusses in detail the loading and firing process necessary for this type of kiln and includes glaze recipes with a wide firing range to accommodate the range of temperatures in the three chambers.

In My Own Backyard is the story of George Ellington and his experiences of working in North Carolina. He studied the methods and techniques of Burlon Craig and the Southern pottery tradition down to building and firing a traditional groundhog kiln. Measuring 10×15 feet on the inside, the 2.5 foot high kiln duplicates the work produced for 150 years in the mountains of North Carolina.

Beyond the Light of the Sun and the Moon is the story of Shigaraki in Japan and its wood fire tradition and the firing of Karl Beamer’s ten-day anagama firing. As part of a sister city exchange, this Pennsylvania pottery instructor and Shigaraki’s Kanazaki combined to span the pottery gap of two world’s.

An Urban Wood Kiln explains the obstacles to wood firing in the city from Sam Clarkson. There’s much to consider with such obstacles as building codes, fire marshals, neighbors calling 911 and firemen who want to hose down a kiln at cone 9.

The Kiln That Consumed Elkton tells the story of building a combination anagama/noborigama kiln and the challenges of a third-generation Japanese-American involved an entire community in his quest to continue a Japanese tradition in Oregon.

Following Anagama Tradition relates the efforts by Estelle and Bruce Martin to build and fire a 500 cu. ft. anagama kiln based on traditional Japanese techniques. After making 1000 pots, they then cut 28 tons of pinewood, split it, and do a host of other preparations for the week long firing.

The Incredible Hog Chain Groundhog deals with building and firing a traditional American groundhog kiln with about 115 cu. ft. of stacking space. Lowell Baker, an expert with wood kilns, maintains that this kiln is the easiest he has ever fired.

Digging a Hillside Kiln demonstrates that reveals the low end of wood firing with a kiln that used 100 bricks and a shovel to construct. This primitive kiln is representative of kiln technology during prehistoric times and the results can be quite stunning.

A Wood Kiln for the Lone Potter is Graham Sheehan’s answer to making a practical wood fired kiln that someone can fire by himself. He says “Usually when you read about wood-fired kilns, it’s easy to get excited. They’re very romantic for sure. But when you look at what’s often reported, there’s no way the average potter is ready to stoke eight cords of wood.” His fiber-lined 30 cu. ft. kiln reaches cone 10 in just under 14 hours.

W. Lowell Baker describes how to build a wood fire kiln from four 55-gallon barrels in Horn Island Kiln. Built on the beach, it demonstrates how wood firing can be as simple or as complex an endeavor as you wish to make it. Plus, how cool is it to wood fire on a beach?

A Kiln for All Reasons answers the question of how to increase your throwing skills and build a wood fire kiln at the same time? Make the kiln from thrown cylinders filled with pumice or vermiculite, of course.

Clear Air is an important consideration especially with a wood-fire kiln. You’ll need to check with local authorities if this is an issue in your neighborhood, but Gil Stengel maintains that you may be surprised at the help available at your local EPA office.

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