Ah, wood fire! How I love thee! I am presently recovering from a 3+ day firing at Soulgama, Stephen Mickey’s anagama-style wood-fired kiln near Brush Prairie, Washington. Wood firing is a unique and cherished experience for many potters. It’s an opportunity for friends and colleagues to gather together and create a tiny community as we give our wares over to the unpredictable fire. We prepare meals for each other and share stories around the kiln. For some of us, this is a rare time to catch up with friends we rarely see.
The first two days are spent loading our pottery and sculpture. It’s a giant 3D puzzle, and we don’t know what all the pieces are going to look like until the 10 participants show up on day one and unpack; however, everyone generally makes a variety of shapes and sizes to accommodate the dimensions of the kiln and it’s predicted firing patterns.
For Soulgama #24, we began loading Thursday, October 14 and finished with a sake toast at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Stephen created a small fire outside the kiln, which was slowly pushed in through a primary air port. After about 30 hours of stoking we reached 2350 degrees in the front.
I’m struggling to come up with a way to effectively describe the feeling, the
As the hours ticked by we donned additional layers of protective gear to safely stoke. Still, by Sunday evening (if not sooner) aluminized kevlar welding gloves start to smolder as the stoker tosses wood into the fire box….it’s so freakin’ cool! At its peak, a good stoke will create a pulsing wave of flame, like a panting dragon, and when the door closes, 8 feet of flame shoots out the chimney. Sometime early Monday morning cone 11 started to go down in the back, so we shut ‘er down around 11 a.m.
And when I say “we shut ‘er down,” I really mean Steve Sanchez tried not to burst into flame as he bricked up the stoke hole, with the raging inferno in his face.
After we cleaned up we shared one last meal together. It was myself, Steve, Natalie Warrens, Brenda Scott and her husband (kiln builder extraordinaire) Eric “The Prophet” Moffitt. That Monday afternoon was cool, but the sun was strong as we ate and tossed back a couple of beers on the deck outside Stephen Mickey’s studio. It was the perfect ending to an inspirational and invigorating weekend.
Now, if I can just figure out how to make the next two weeks fly by until we get to open the kiln….oh, yes of course, there’s that kiln I’m building (more on that soon). Oh, and that soda fire scheduled for the first week in November. And the Shigaraki firing. And the Holiday Sale. Ok, I should be sufficiently distracted.