The Season's First Firing! by Elizabeth Phelps Meyer

Snow was deep on the mountain in Cold Spring at Tony Moore's noborigama kiln, during our pre-load-in glazing days in mid-March. Today, at the unload, I noticed only a couple diminishing piles roadside and the earth was sprinkled with blossoms from flowering spring bulbs. Some of the stoking shifts had very chilly weather, as winter has been hanging on long and late this year. Last year, there was a similarly chilly weather for the inaugural firing at Tony's kiln, and just like that firing, this one had some luscious amounts of carbon trapping! I'm wondering, could the chilly air outside lead to more trapped gasses in the kiln atmosphere and carbon trapping in the glazes? In any case, the kiln gods were smiling on us this time. There were beautiful results all around.

In this firing I tried out 13 different shinos on my cups for the Each Day, Water exhibition in October. I'm really pleased with many of the results! Clay body is grolleg porcelain (Laguna 550). The glaze was mixed and applied the same day. It was blended with a high-speed electric hand-blender, but not put through a mesh. The glazing took place three weeks before the firing started, so the soda ash crystals had a LONG time to form. Some of my favorite new shinos include:

Dresang Shino
Neph Sy: 13.7
F4 Feldspar: 44.4
Spodumene: 29.4
OM4: 3.9
EPK: 9.8
Soda Ash: 7.8

Porcelain Shino (some trickster had fun making this recipe)
Neph Sy: 39.39
Spodumene: 30.3
OM4: 17.17
EPK: 5.05
Soda Ash: 8.08

Moon Rocks Shino
Custer Feldspar: 45.7
Spodumene: 38
EPK: 6.3
Soda Ash: 10

Roach Trap Shino
Neph Sy: 23
F4 Feldspar: 23
Spodumene: 38
EPK: 6
Soda Ash: 10

Napster Shino
Neph Sy: 40
Spodumene: 25
OM4: 17
EPK: 10
Soda Ash: 8

December Woodfiring! Tony Moore Kiln by Elizabeth Phelps Meyer

I wood-fired 71 more vessels for the Each Day, Water project. Hopefully there will be some "keepers" for the exhibition.

In addition to my ongoing use of snowcap shino (which I layered very thick in some areas), I tried out some glazes new to these particular porcelain vessels: carbon trap shino, pearl shino, bopshin d, mamo white, and olsen shino. I can't wait to see what happened!

I stoked on the closing shift, 4 pm to midnight on Saturday, Dec 1. We definitely reached ^10 all around, and up to ^13 in the hot areas of the kiln. The air was cold on our backs, but the kiln kept us warm. The moon was full. At one point, after the closing began, green flames rose from the kiln's chimney-top. The moon, rainbow-orbed, wavered through the heat waves rising from the flames. It was really fun to close at Tony's kiln - stuffing cracks with K-wool and mudding over the portals and red-hot cracks. Steam coming off the trowels, the clay drying-on-contact. We enjoyed some wonderful vegetable miso soup, generously prepared by Tony's wife, at midnight when we were done. I tried to recreate it the next day in my own kitchen. Sadly, Olivia didn't like parsnips.

Our unloading was postponed a day due to our first snowfall of the season. In terms of results, the vessels where I layered the snowcap shino thick in some areas over the former layer (which didn't have great melt in the summer firings) came out really WILD.  The thicker glaze actually seems to have fallen off many of the pots, taking the prior layer with it, and leaving big swathes of naked clay beneath that flashed light peach (and accepted no ash). The thick snowcap shino also shivered a lot. Snowcap always shivers on bisqueware of this porcelain, but since these were "re-fires" I wasn't expecting so much shivering. The problem seems to have been the thickness of the glaze. Basically, this experiment had a very high fail rate. In some pieces, the glaze folded onto itself as it was melting. I did get some "happy accidents," particularly with drips and folds of thick glaze (that didn't shiver), and the cups where I added some Robinson's Blue and Olive Celadon into the mix were quite wild/lovely. But 41 cups was plenty for that experiment....  too many. I'll probably only keep about 10 of them for the show.

As typical for a wood-firing, "chance" ruled. In some areas of the kiln there was more carbon trapping than others, and ditto with the level of heat, heat work, and wood-ash. I also got some peach-colored flashing with glazes where I didn't expect that to happen at all. Most of my favorites came out of the anagama, but I got several lovelies from the noborigama, including a mamo white delicacy that turned a lovely shade of light yellow.

In general, these are my findings:
* Of the new glazes, the clear winner is carbon trap shino (it fired with a green-gray cast). Bopshin D takes second place. Though it flashed peach in some areas, for the most part this was subtle and beautiful. I'll use both these glazes again. The carbon trap shino crazed a lot, which might indicate a glaze fit issue with this clay body, I'm going to look into this.
* The pearl shino flashed too peach (for what I want for this project) in the wood kiln. It might work better in gas reduction firings to get the silvery-grays that attracted me to trying the recipe.
* I might try the olsen shino in the anagama next time; on my clay body it fires very deep brown in the noborigama (even though it is gray on the porcelain test tiles). Nevertheless, there was some gorgeous iridescence! Where the flame touched and/or it got super-hot in the noborigama, it did turn grey.
* The mamo white went a deep greyish purple in the anagama.

Summer Woodfirings! by Elizabeth Phelps Meyer

This summer I was fortunate to participate in two wood firings. I glazed and fired over 215 of the vessels I had created for Plainsong Kico, Part 1 as part of the Seachange Voyage/Residency. The first firing, at Peters Valley School of Craft, involved 5 days of stoking a huge "dragon" of an anagama kiln (named Emily by her builders). Over the course of the firing each participant had 5 six-hour stoking shifts. Matthew Schiemann of the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, FL was our instructor and firing captain. The second firing, at Tony Moore Studio, was more familiar to me (as a repeat member of his wood-firing community). Below are some photos and highlights from these experiences.

Peters Valley School of Craft Anagama Firing, August 17 - 21

Tony Moore Noborigama Firing, September 7 - 9

Noborigama firing at Tony Moore's Studio in Cold Spring, NY by Elizabeth Phelps Meyer

woodfiring vessels

This week I'm wood-firing 43 vessels for Plainsong Kico. They are glazed with Snow Cap Shino that fires as a mix of gray (in reduction) and white (in oxidation). Here are some of them lined up on the shelf in the kiln shed before the load-in.

I'll post more pictures when I have my stoking shift on Thursday... And then pictures of the results at the July 1st kiln unloading!

The firing lasts for three days, followed by a week-long long cool-down.

May fire god Agni be kind to us.

UPDATE: I got less ash and carbon trapping/ graying of the Shino than I hoped for, so the vessels are very subtle/ less tortured than last time. Also, everything that I fired as bisqueware shattered. The pieces that had already been fired to ^10, unglazed in the electric kiln, were fine.

Images (left to right): my stoking shift - the first "kindling shift" in which we raised the temperatures of the fireboxes only by 20-30 degrees F per hour; aerial view of the successfully wood-fired pieces - some of the 36 survivors - you can see some ash glaze in the bottoms; part of the unloading day yield for all the firing participants; the cracking of my bisqueware - note that the shino glaze did not even fuse/adhere to the bisque. It pulled away (shivered) and the pressure of the different expansion/cooling rate of clay and glaze appear to have pulled apart/ fractured the vessels. Luckily only 7 of the vessels I fired were bisqueware.... Firings: always a learning experience!

Peters Valley Anagama Firing - Here I come! by Elizabeth Phelps Meyer

I just received an educator's scholarship from Peters Valley School of Craft, combined with professional development funding from Oakwood Friends School, to attend a clay workshop at Peters Valley in Layton, NJ this summer. I'll be going to the Firing the Anagama workshop, August 15-22. I built a 3-D Clay Printer there last June as part of Bryan Czibescz's workshop. I went there last summer little knowing that Peters Valley is a wood-firing haven. I walked into their enormous hillside Anagama kiln, which was built in 1980 following a medieval Japanese design. It was astonishing; it took my breath away. I look forward to bringing some of my 3-D-printed clay sculpture back to Peters Valley this summer - as well as other pieces, including vessels from Plainsong Kico - to fire in this extraordinary, gargantuan Anagama kiln.

Here is the link describing the workshop: