Kilns with Personality

24 October, 2012

Firing record sheet

Yesterday I spent the day firing some new work. I don’t yet have my own gas kiln, so I shared a kiln load with fellow potter Tanya Gomez. Spending time in Tanya’s studio, I took some photos of my surroundings, whilst babysitting the kiln and between occasional checks of the pyrometer.

Whilst at Tanya’s studio, we chatted about how gas kilns appear to have personalities and quirks of their own. Regular firings help to ‘get to know them’, but even then, they can change their behaviour in little ways, from firing to firing, sometimes literally depending on the weather.

So, even though all went very well, it is with the usual tinge of apprehension as well as excitement that I await the opening of the kiln.

2 Responses to “Kilns with Personality”

  1. I used to fire a gas kiln, and the rules of firing were things like ‘it sulks if you try & slow it down’, and we had the same feeling of personality, that the kiln had its own behaviour depending on the pack, the weather, and how you treated it. I remember almost praying to it as we tried to get it to temperature with the snow falling outside the open shutters (for ventilation)… we couldn’t leave until ‘Cone9’ without ruining the contents. A magical moment.

    The complexity of the thermodynamics of a packed kiln (especially in reduction) are such that they are not solvable (it’s why people have to use wind tunnels, any computational approach is approximate and needs big computers). I have a great book ‘Chaos and order: complex dynamics in literature and science’ Katherine Hayles – which talks about the parallels between chaos/complexity theory and post-modernism. I’ve only managed to skim-read this, so this is a guess, but: scientifically, understanding a gas kiln is more like reading James Joyce than driving a car. (!!!)

    hope the work comes out well though, when firings are good the results can be sublime…

    • You’re right, getting to grips with the subtle nuances of reduction firing does sound like trying to fathom James Joyce! In my pursuit of that cool blue celadon, I’ve had to learn to live with the chaos and settle for the illusion of control offered by that most imprecise of tools – the brick on the top of the vent!

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