We have unpacked the latest firing and it was largely good, some of it is quite good. A bit of it is very good, but as always there is the odd disaster. I sport a winsome smile.
I realise that I’m awake and I’m not going to get back to sleep. It’s 4.00 am and we are all ready to fire the kiln today. I usually wake up at about this time on firing days. It’s a habit that I have got into. I like to start early. I love the quiet of the early morning. It’s beautiful. There is a very special time. Just a half hour, when the birds start to wake up and so does the sun in response to their chippering and calling. They have very fine senses. They are awake and calling when it is still dark. I can’t tell the difference with my old worn out eyes. but they know and call out to tell each other. They summon the sun.
It’s always good to be home and re-united with my 4 girls.
I have a lot to do. Jobs that have built up while I’ve been away. I hit the ground running. We have 3 weekend workshop booked in for wood firings over the next 3 weekends. We have a lot of bisque-ware ready to be glazed for the Southern Highlands Arts Trail Open Studio Weekends that are coming up, but we can’t get access to our wood kiln until we finish all the workshops.
The effort that we put in to preparation pays off, as all the weekends go smoothly and everyone leaves with something nice to make all the effort worthwhile. And we are lucky with the weather too. It blows a gale all week, and then it settles down and we have a glorious weekend of still, sunny days.
We fire the big wood kiln overnight through the weekend, taking shifts of 4 hours and overlapping each change of personal by 2 hours, so that there is always some continuity. The nights are cold and we huddle near the firebox for warmth. This is a downdraught ‘Bourry’ style firebox, so there isn’t very much to do most of the time.
If we stoke with big pieces of hardwood. It might take up to one hour for those logs to burn down sufficiently to allow another stoke. The kiln climbs slowly in an even, steady, reducing atmosphere.
The next weekend we have a low temperature wood firing workshop. We have half a dozen small wood fired kilns that we use throughout the day. We have 10 participants, who each bring 5 or 6 pots to fire, depending on size. We get through them all in the day, along with half a dozen wheel-barrow loads of wood.
When the day is over, we pack away all the little kilns, except for one. I leave it out and pack it with my glaze tests for all the new batches of glazes that have made up for the next big wood firing. It will have a lot of work in there for the ArtsTrail Open Studios Weekends. I want to make sure that I haven’t made any mistakes or poor assumptions, when making-up these glazes.
I pack the kiln in the morning and start to fire straight away. I push it along, as I have other things to do this afternoon. This little beauty breaks all previous records and cruises up the cone 10 in just 2 1/2 hours in reduction. The results are really quite good. Everything is well melted. There is no flashing in such a short firing. Nor is there very intense reduction colour, but all the colours are there – only paler than I would expect from a longer wood firing. I’m finished by lunchtime and can get on with other things.
I even surprise my self! I didn’t know that this sort of speed was possible for a stoneware firing, and with so little effort.
The garden is producing well, with Nina in charge in my absence, she decides to have the evening baking and makes a couple of lovely dishes. A leek pie with a little bit of sour cream and a wholemeal crust, topped with some grated tasty cheese, which is amazing, followed with a berry pie with a baked sponge topping. Served with Edmonds custard. Yum! It’s an economical, warming, dinner on a cold evening. All this garden produce is a fitting reward for all the hours of weeding and watering. However, we don’t do it to save money, but to enjoy wholesome, unpolluted, fresh food.
Over the years, we have made decisions that have allowed us to be in control of much of our lives, but nothing is perfect, nothing is finished and nothing lasts!
Enjoy the moment.
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