The Talented Ms Rippley

Have kiln will travel and unexpected visitors on our return

In between our hectic schedule of 10 weekend workshops in a row, we have managed to fit in a brief visit to the coast for a little break. Surprisingly, it takes us most of the week to prepare the kiln, props and shelves, cut, split, cart and stack the wood. I also want to slip a couple of rock glaze and woodash tests into the firing for my own interest. Weighing out glaze tests also takes a lot of time.

We are very lucky to have friends who own a part share in a holiday shack down the coast and we are extra lucky to be invited down to spend a couple of nights down there. We get to see the sea and it’s good!
We get away for a couple of days and as it is a potters holiday house, we take one of Stefan Jakob’s brilliant little Ikea rubbish bin kilns with us. It fits in the car with all our bedding, clothes and other travelling parafinalia, plus a big esky of produce from the garden. We know that there will be oysters down the coast, so we take a couple of bottles of cider along as well. Dry cider has to be my favourite accompanyment to go with fresh shucked oysters – maybe a little pepper too.
We enjoy the best sunsets and walks along the beach and a time spent in among the rock pools.

After settling in, we spend the day firing the little kiln with brushwood from around the site. It burns well, and the kiln fires quickly and easily all day with good results. We’ve brought along a bucket of glaze and some gloves, tongs and oxide etc, so we idle the day away sitting in the sun, looking at the view and occationally stoking the kiln. It’s a perfect pottery busmans holiday.
A fun day, good company, a nice meal and a bottle of wine and all is well with the world.
We return home to find a couple of unexpected visitors using our place as a short cut from the back gully up to the disused train line.
They are wondering what we are doing in their yard.
Our workshop students return to unpack the wood kiln and take their pots home. They all seem to be happy. I gave them a talk about the periodic table of the elements in the early hours of the morning during the firing. Something to fill the deadly hours of midnight to dawn. Lucky I didn’t put them all to sleep! They ask me if I have studdied science. I haven’t, but I’m an enthusiastic amateur. To make pots the way that I’m trying to do it, from a few buckets full of soil and some burnt plants from the garden, you need to be able to find your way around a little bit of everything. Chemistry, geology, engineering, maths. Even a bit of artistic talent would come in handy, but it’s The Lovely that has all the talent. Now that she has seen the tide marks on the sand, she’ll probably start making rippley textured pots. I find that hard slog and determined commitment gets me where I want to go. There is no substitute for hard graft.
I get to see my new woodash and local granite rock glaze tests come out of the kiln.
I get a lovely new version of my pink/mushroom ash glaze with a flat, dense, matt crystal surface. There’s a good mustard yellow with grey carbon inclusion where it’s thick. A very clear bright apple green and the usual runny chun, milky opalescent and white crystal glaze amongst others.
All in all a very good result. New buckets of all these can now be made up again. As wood ash varies from tree to tree and from limb to trunk, not to mention season to season. I always have to test every new batch for consistency before commiting to a bucket sized batch. It can take several days to a month to collect, crush, grind, mill, sieve, dry and otherwise prepare these rocks and ashes. I can’t aford to make any mistakes. But I always do. No batch is ever the same as the last using the same recipe. It’s the continual natural variations that make this kind of research so interesting.
fond regards from The Talented Ms Rippley and her Busman.