In February, I signed up as a participant in a the latest wood firing at the Eye of the Do Art Center in San Marcos, Texas. This amazing clay community provides studios, classes, and multiple firing opportunities for firing with wood, soda, raku, and electric. And dogs run free here. I’m thankful for the great people who make this place so rewarding and I’m honored to be a part of it.
Wood firing is a challenging process and it requires a large team to complete each of the firings that happen during the year. One starts with trips to a mill in Bastrop where a large quantity of off-cuts of cedar, oak, and occasional ash juniper are brought back the Eye to be split into manageable pieces. Some logs are too large to use so there are some folks who are chain sawing these into manageable lengths. There was a lot of downed oak and cedar damaged in the ice storm earlier this year and much of it would have been gathered. We spent the first work day splitting, loading, carrying, and organizing the various cuts of wood in the frames under the kiln shed. By days end, the stacks were ten feet high and probably eight feet deep. Meanwhile all the kiln furniture and shelves are cleaned, ground off, and washed with kiln wash to keep things from sticking to the shelves.
The next step is bringing pottery down for the loading day. With a capacity of 1,000 pots it’s incredible to see how all are fit into the space. Participants are involved in several activities. Some are mixing and rolling wadding which is used to raise pots off the shelves and level them. Wadding is attached to the bottom of pots with glue and also on lids to keep them from sticking to the pot underneath. Some pieces are resting on shells on top of wadding. The shells will completely disappear in the firing but will leave a shadow of the form and shape of the shell on the ware. There were some innovative uses of rice hulls that acted as a soft nest for pots within pots. Several people were measuring pots to fit into the nooks and crannies around larger pots. Some were looking for that particular piece of pottery that fits only in a certain place. All of us were led by the two expert leaders with long wood fire experience under their belts.
The third step is the actual day of firing which consists of multiple groups working shifts during the day and all night. This firing was still in progress when I finished my six hour shift from 6 am to 12 pm yesterday and I think there was one final shift after that. At the end of the day on Sunday we all enjoyed a lovely pot luck dinner. The kiln will cool down over the next week and I will follow with further photos.
Loading workers absorbed in many tasks
View of the ware stacks close to the chimney flue
Stacked pots on the other end of the ware chamber
Cone pack on the flue area side of the ware chamber. These little sticks are made of clay that has been pressed into the “cone” shape. Each is designed to melt at a certain temperature. They are placed in an area where where they can be viewed during the firing and one can tell how far along the firing is based on the cones that have melted and those that are left standing.