It’s been a while.

It’s been a while since I last wrote about anything remotely worth writing about ,because not much as happened that is worth writing about really. Just the usual thank you.

We plod on through life doing all the boring everyday stuff that we have to do, work,washing up and on the odd occasion we do something that we consider worth while,fun and creative,this is one such occasion so I am writing about it.

All winter I had been making the usual earthenware things that I love, for the weald and downland museum and stuff to sell. In the hope that my mate Tina would invite me again to help her fire her woodfiring kiln, I was making in stoneware too. This actually came true and we were making a start on the 10th March a Wednesday to fire on that coming Saturday.

The weather in the winter has been very wet and Tina’s garden was looking like the Battle of Paschendale on a good day,the communication trenches were flooded and the saps were in disarray.

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Tina had already packed half the kiln over the past weeks, I was given a whole stack to fill, which in a kiln this size was quite a lot of space to fill. A lot of my stuff was flat ware and I decided not to pack it,mainly to try it at a lower less likely to warp it temperature. My bigger stuff was packed into the dome of the kiln,( the joy of a big kiln).

 

 

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We finally finished glazing and packing on Friday and were ready for a very early start the following morning at 4.30 ooer. We had the use of a magic gazebo this is what it looked like,a bit like a resident of Windscale glowing in the dark.

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Long suffering hubby of Tina,Graham and I lit the kiln at 4.30, we had set an overnight fire which was glowing a little and had kept the heat at 150 c. Slowly the dawn came up and lo it was misty.IMG_0529

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the patrols came in back to the trenches they reported that all was quite in the Westphalian trenches they were probably asleep, the odd flare went up, generally quite. Slowly stoked, my worries about the damp firewood were unfounded at this early stage and probably did a good job holding back the rise.

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P1050443The passive damper at the base of the chimney let colder air in almost stopping the flame from progressing up the chimney,causing the kiln to reduce.

Tina had been given large buckets of Linseed oil waste ,that was spooned into the fireboxes,it burnt really well and is 100 per cent vegetable, flax for linen seeds for allsorts of uses.
P1050444Eventually we reached temperature as usual the pyro was out but useful for showing the rise.IMG_0531It had only taken 14 hours to fire and we felt a little deflated, as we sat down to our take away curry,which soon inflated us again, powerful stuff.

THE UNPACK.

We waited until the following Thursday,Tina had been sending me updates on the decreases and when we opened up it was 25 degrees a pleasant mid day temperature.

IMG_0532IMG_0533IMG_0534There were over 300 pots in the kiln apart from a few boring ones and a few glaze runs they were all really good. The hard bit is still to come, selling them,

A very good firing .

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Recent goings on

This years rememberance day was a bit special for our family,on 29th September 1915 my grandad was killed at the battle of Loos.

The memorial that he is listed on was re-instated after developers bought the drill hall that it was attached to,  finally it was restored and unveiled ( not complete ) so that respects could be paid, I was suprised at the attendance.My generation will be the last people who met and talked to them,my other Grandad survived to tell me the horror stories.

IMG_0418IMG_0415We been doing the Christmas markets some are good others not. The Weald and Downland Christmas market was very very wet,but there was more people attending than ever before we did really well and I enjoyed meeting quite a few people that we’d seen before.Thank you to all those who found us in IMG_0424our little 1640’s cottage.

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I have been really lazy in the workshop,the re-cycle bucket was looking more like an ice cream cone than a bucket.The pugmill an instrument of torture had to be completely dismantled and cleaned,the nuts and bolts holding it all together didn’t fit on the re-assembly ( very strange ) I eventually made it work and work is the word, I made vows never to let it get to this stage ever again, as I made vows last time it got as bad as this.

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For four years now we have been a part of the Carshalton frost fair, we were there again this year, it has always had a special atmosphere. The wind was a problem this year but no one lost their  gazebos,but there were some very big gusts. We did really well and were not that far from the carols,Salvation army band and other entertainments, father Christmas came round with his two helpers elf n safety. The solar powered lighting came on and it was all twinkly, very festive, we were shattered by the time we got home, an enjoyable day.

IMG_0448IMG_0450Dates are already filling up for 2016 .

Next wood firing 10.March 2016 will have to start making for that,yippeee.

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A new direction ( possibly)

The first ever visit I had to a professional potter was to Milland pottery in Liphook, they were older than I was and were the new wave of studio potters.They had set up in the late 40’s and were very very good,they threw most of their ware and it was fired in an oil kiln to very high earthenware 1190/1200. I still use some of the pots I bought from them and still enjoy them 35 years later,alas they are no longer with us but their pots live on, there is some in the Dome museum in Brighton.WP_20150727_11_36_00_Pro

 

I took the plunge and changed. I made a new clay up with 25% local clay, a sticky yellow dug from the graveyard and trenches nearby.WP_20150722_07_37_44_ProWP_20150722_07_41_15_ProWP_20150722_13_30_34_ProWP_20150811_12_45_01_Pro

 

The firing was very odd, I had packed the kiln and put a small flame in overnight, when in the morning I put the the pyrometer on, the thermo couple ( probe wot goes in the firing chamber ) it said 119 but after an hour there was a bright orange glow? very strange. I tried another pyro and this said 1650 ,absolute nonsense.( I ruddy hate pyro’s ),so it was down to the cones 3-4-5 soon there was a slight bend on 3 1140c. at five hours all the cones were down in one part of the kiln so had to shut it down, am now waiting for the cool down and to open it to see what went on,very strange.

Three days later after it had all cooled down, I took down the front wall ( wicket ) to find that the whole thing had underfired dramatically, despite the cones going over. I found out the thermocouple wasn’t actually protruding into the kiln .Always a good move to have it the heat you need to measure.But that doesn’t explain the cones going over.WP_20150811_16_44_13_Pro

 

I bricked it back up again to fire again with the last of my cones going in,the thermocouple going in in  a different spot .

 

Ah well,start all over again this time with some new cones and the thermo couple ( probe) actually sticking into the chamber. Same as before I left a burner in on a low overnight. In the morning the pyro,actually working, said 268 degrees c,which speeds things up. There was a quick rise until 730 when it stuck for a while, with manipulation shifted it until 940. I reduced, then it really did get stuck no amount of manipulation would get it going again until I started in desperation to stoke long bits of wood through the burner holes. This started it all off up again, the wood was not smoking so I continued with wood until all the cones went over,phew .WP_20150811_16_44_18_Pro

 

Three days later and some peeking, I opened up the kiln to find out whether the whole new direction thing had worked. With some relief it had for the most part,some of the local slips had worked very well,  some not so,the green slip reduced massively and went red,not too sure of the quality of it.WP_20150814_001WP_20150814_07_25_42_Pro

I tested one of the vases for water tightness and three days later the bottom was dry, also the strength was very good having dropped a mug by mistake.

 

This may well be the forward for me.

 

 

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Sweet summer rain or not and other stuff

Summer has a habit of going so fast and this year is no exception,we have been doing loads of stuff making and markets. It’s mostly too routine to talk about so I didn’t ,there was one,the Carshalton Lavender fair that was very good despite the weather on the Sunday.The field is situated on some allotments in Carshalton beeches and is very secluded,it is run by volunteers who work really hard to promote it,they distill the oil and lavender water and take it around some of the markets we go to.Lavender is a traditional crop for the area and they still use the original genus of the plant that was always used locally.

with some help from my candle guru we made lavender candles in terracotta pots

with some help from my candle guru we made lavender candles in terracotta pots

IMG_0299we enjoyed our weekend, dillydilly.IMG_0298IMG_0297IMG_0296IMG-20150804-WA0001IMG-20150804-WA0003

On the Sunday you could see what pots we'd sold

On the Sunday you could see what pots we’d sold

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RAKU 2015

If you have given up smoking and have big cravings come to a raku doo, you can inhale cubic metres of smoke and not feel guilty at all.

 

Not so much smoke this year,trying to keep in with the neighbours

Not so much smoke this year,trying to keep in with the neighbours

This years Firing was set to be the biggest one yet, with the Selsdon marching band, the Addington cheerleaders and the famous tribute singer Elton Jim all booked it was all set to be the most entertaining one yet . Problem was I got muddled and booked them for the 17th so they all turned up on Sunday one day late, still it was a nice show.

I had been watching the weather forecast all week luckily the sun came out and it was all good all day, which was a good job because all the glazing buckets etc were outside.

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I had made some new glazes and topped up favourites, they always get silly names to help us remember them better,the new ones were ‘no hope 4 green,yet another turquoise, turkwarse USA and 40 shades of ?. They worked well .This time I had a helper get the pots out of the kiln Jon Cullum , which was a great help it gets really hot. This time it was hotter than other firings for some reason, I actually got burnt through a leather jacket ,very odd.

We had some new folks this time Sue and Janice I think they might be converted.We were firing up to about 6, I think.

We also had a re onion with our old teacher Alex, who has been living in Prague but luckily has come back to live in Bath, it was lovely to see her.DSCF2272

 

In between the social bits there were some very lovely pots coming out, thank you to everyone for making the day go so well, thank you for all your food and drink contributions too, they were all lovely.

Monday morning pouring with rain I spotted a little puff of smoke coming from one of the dustbins .

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April woodfiring

When you see a pot for sale on a stall or shop, you would never guess at the amount of work that went into it.

Tina's house

Tina’s house

I turned up at my mate Tina’s house on Wednesday the 15th to help with firing her kiln and to put my pots in too. Three days later the kiln was packed, stacked and clammed ready to go on Saturday morning, I get bored with glazing, so this for me was very trying.

wadding balls are ringing for me and my pot

wadding balls are ringing for me and my pot

Glazing fatigue

Glazing fatigue

 

our bits of the Kiln packed waiting for Pete

our bits of the Kiln packed waiting for Pete

 

Tina’s husband Graham and I made a contract to be at the kiln with paper ,sticks and matches at 5 am, it was still dark and the Nightingale that he had heard singing in the dark was being drowned out by a very busy dawn chorus. Over the three days I had spotted quite a number of migrants,warblers and two swallows.

Light the blue touch paper and retire back to bed ( not )

Light the blue touch paper and retire back to bed ( not )

first smoke

first smoke

roar

roar

We lit one firebox and with smoke,flames and heat the kiln was off and burning. We started gently with large short logs slowly giving of background heat. We used large logs until the other firebox was lit, then we used the long timber from pallets that I had dismantled. All that effort unpicking them paid off and better than going to landfill.

The day started to warm up and soon it all became very pleasant in the sun, without too much effort the temperature began to climb as Tina orchestrated the stoking symphony it rose to a crescendo at about 10.30.

nearly there

nearly there

We finished on a reduction with loads of thin plum tree prunings stuffed into the fire boxes, big crackle and pop. Then the panic of clamming up quickly to conserve the heat and slow the cool.

I can’t remember going to sleep, after an eighteen hour day I zonked out.

Scroll forward to the following Saturday, after an agonising wait mainly because we all had to be there for the grand opening to say oooo ahh and ruddy hell. It was worth the wait and on the whole we were all very pleased, no major breakages or mistakes .We spent much time thanking the kiln gods and even

more time taking stock and making notes about where, what why and next time.

one wicket down

one wicket down

we tried to count them and gave up

we tried to count them and gave up

 

scene of the crime shot,with all the suspects

scene of the crime shot,with all the suspects

post match analysis

post match analysis

The next time for the kiln will be in September.

 

 

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The first firing of the year

It looks like the long drawn out winter is slowly ebbing, the daylight hours are nearly the same as darkness hours. It was dark and very cold when I started up the kiln at 5.20 am.

Light didn't quite reach

Light didn’t quite reach

 

I had spent two and half days loading it and there wasn’t nearly enough to fill the gaps. The bigger pots needed bigger space, funnily, that’s when you realise the draw backs of the arch as opposed to the sprung arch.

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I had left a burner in one of the burner ports on a small flame overnight it had been going 7 hours when the other one was set going.It’s hard doing all this with just one tallow candle borrowed from a 19th century miner on his way T’pit. The pyro was working for a change and stayed working all the firing, ( fall on floor in disbelief) it said 230 at the outset.

Sunshine on the tarp

Sunshine on the tarp

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contrail looking up twixt shed and shed

contrail looking up twixt shed and shed

It was all very boring until the dawn and then only marginally, but very cold until mid day . The only excitement was to swap over cylinders when they started to freeze and lose pressure apart from that it was plain sailing.

not as frozen as the film or what it looked like earlier

not as frozen as the film or what it looked like earlier

 

As usual there is that sinking feeling after a firing and the bored tiredness if it was easy.

UNPACK

 

Sunday 8th March, I had some helpers to un load the kiln.

Two little helpers

Two little helpers

 

The large jug and water carrier made it through, but there was a few wasters mainly the stuff made from clay from the cliff at west bay Dorset. Some even melted at this temperature. There were many small kiln fillers and they mostly were ok, not a brilliant firing but ok ish.

kiln load minus all the wasters

kiln load minus all the wasters

the very big jug for the Winkhurst kitchen

the very big jug for the Winkhurst kitchen

 

The next firing will be a wood firing in Tina’s kiln at very high stoneware temperatures. I have been scrounging pallets from skips and beach combing driftwood, I am really looking forward to that.

 

Farewell until the next time

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