In preparation for the up-coming Open Studio Weekends on the first two weekends in November, we have been hard at work making and firing to get everything ready in time.
We are still working on the pottery shed, as it isn’t quite finished yet. So much to do, but it is almost there. We have to stop the building work to concentrate on making pots now.
There are so many little bit and pieces of the building that need to be cleaned up and properly finished. The team of shed builders who erected the frame for us were working very quick and rough and left a lot to be desired in terms of details. I’m still finding out the places where they didn’t finish off the flashing, or didn’t put enough silicon in the joints here and there. But their biggest crime was not using metal screws with rubber seals, so I had to go around the whole building and squeeze silicon rubber over all the external screws to waterproof them. It probably only saved them $10. Such is the state of modern building trades. Fortunately we didn’t buy a high rise home unit with cracks in it, so we couldn’t live in it, but still had to pay the mortgage. That is so unforgivable. With all this rain over the past year, I’m still discovering places that leak or just little annoying drips that need attention.
The framing crew did at least get the frame level, square and true. I’ll give them that much. The building inspector from the council who came and inspected our job, told us that this was one of the better frames that he had seen. Some were so bad, he had to call the builders back to straighten it up.
Janine and I have done nearly all of our building work over the years as owner builders here for the past 45 years, but this rebuilding job was just beyond us in our ’senior’ years. Especially the scale of it and particularly after working ourselves into the ground with all the clean-up work that we did after the fire. By the time it came to start re-building, we just didn’t have the energy. After the 6 months of cleaning up, we were ready to hand over to a team who supposedly knew what they were doing when it came to erecting a steel fame shed — sort of. They were certainly well practised at making short cuts.
This last weekend we fired the wood kiln. This was our 2nd firing in this new kiln and we are still learning how it works and getting to know its peculiarities and character.
We had Len Smith, Rob Linegan to help and Jan Kesby called in after her workshop at Sturt Pottery to give us a hand, as she was in the neighbourhood.
The kiln at full fire, burning logs on the hobs.
Rob and Len doing their bit.
Jan Kesby showing us how it’s done.
We will unpack later in the week after it has cooled down.
Janine has been crushing and grinding her beach pumice stones to make her sea-ladon green glaze. Made from just beach pumice and beach cuttle fish carapace ‘shells’.
She has also been making up her ‘Chun’ or ‘Jun’ blue opalescent glaze that she makes from the ash from the kitchen slow combustion stove.
They both require crushing and then grinding in the ball mills to get the best result. There are so many little steps that go into being a self-reliant artist that most people just couldn’t imagine.
Then there is the splitting and stacking all the wood for firing. Everything takes time. We only have pre-burnt logs to fire with now, as every tree on our block of land was burnt. So we have a few hundred tonnes of standing dead wood to use up for the rest of our lives, but regrettably, since it is already pre-burnt. It has lost a lot of its volatiles, saps, kinos and resins. This means that we have to invent new ways of using it up in the kilns, as it is a bit like firing with charcoal than fresh timber. It still burns, but with a short flame and doesn’t really crackle and roar like it used to pre-fire. One solution I’m trying is to split it finer, where that is possible, but the stringy back that grows around here has a very twisty, gnarly, well integrated grain, that doesn’t easily lend itself to fine free-splitting.
Another option is to re-build the fire box to adapt it better to this charcoal rich environment, larger and with more provision for burning charcoal and ember? That’s a much bigger job, so I’ll try all of the easier options first. Time will tell.