Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chuck Solberg Anagama

Ari stopped by during the urban woodfire experiment. He raised the idea of fixing up Patricia (the Edina Art Center woodkiln). I said that before we expend any more energy on that kiln, we should both get some experience firing a woodkiln or two with some people who know what they are doing. Ari was around all summer. We played several rounds of disc golf and went on a "cerami-bender". He told me he wants to go to med school, so I tried to get Adam and him together. I was hoping Adam could share some insights into what it takes to get into med school and what it's like once your in. I believe that if you decide you want to do something you should talk to people who have already done it.

So Ari went back to Colorado College and I contacted Martin. He is a friend of mine who fired Patricia with us probably 4 or 5 times. He has been renting studio space from Chuck Solberg, a local clay artist. Chuck and a small group of clay enthusiasts built an anagama about an hour or two West of the cities. I asked Martin if I could get in on the next firing. He talked to Chuck and they needed a little more help stoking the kiln. The arrangement was made that I could put about 20 pots in if I would work a 6 hour shift and pay a little money (I ended up paying $75).

We got the midnight to 6am shift Sunday morning. The kiln was started with propane on Wednesday night. It had been stoked continuously since. It was pretty much at temperature when we arrived. We were mostly just keeping it there, soaking it, allowing more ash to build up on the surface of the pots. It was a great night, very relaxing. We listened to a late night airing of "American Routes" on NPR. The dj was focusing on the music and life story of Johnny Cash. The wood was precut and stacked, four foot lengths of slab wood, off-cuts from a lumber mill up North. We took alternating 45 minute shifts feeding it into the firebox. We talked about books and jobs, drank some coffee.

The kiln was unloaded about a week later. I wasn't there for the loading or unloading, something I regret. My schedule just didn't allow it. I would have liked to be there for both, to see how the pots are loaded, and to see what results different areas of the kiln produce. From what I have been told and have experienced first hand, all kilns fired with a flame (wood or gas) have different zones in them where slightly different temperatures occur. Amounts of ash (or salt/soda if added) can very too, along with levels of reduction. The results were ok, a bit darker then I would have liked, but the pots are growing on me. I used the same yellow underglaze I used on the face vase. You can see that it burned out, went to a creamish brown color. I often joke with Martin, calling a wood kiln a brownification chamber. You know going in that things will be various shades of brown, that is what they tend to do. A student of mine, John E., described the woodfired look as a pot that looks like you buried it in the ground and dug it up a thousand years later. I like that way of describing it. I hope to get to fire the kiln again, and will try to make pieces specifically for the kiln. I was not intending to wood fire these pieces when I made them.

1 comment:

T.Schmidt said...

hey, just stumbled across your blog...i just finished my first woodfire with chuck solberg..we unload next saturday. did you participate? also, i love that you tried to convert an old toploader electric kiln to woodfire. how did you add the wood at the end, without disturbing the pots? or did it never get hot enough? i have a busted up shell of a toploader, and would be curious to try it with my high school ceramics students.

thanks for sharing your ingenuity!
tricia (ceramics teacher in woodbury, MN)