Woodkiln Demolition: A step by step guide.

Step 1: Take down the chimney. Here's the train kiln, with chimney almost down, and after the outer layer of chicken wire and concrete was removed (with Jesse's super handy pneumatic hammer).

Step 1: Take down the chimney. Here's the train kiln, with chimney almost down, and after the outer layer of chicken wire and concrete was removed (with Jesse's super handy pneumatic hammer).

Step 3: Build a wooden form to jack up the arch, then start removing the arch from back to front.

Step 3: Build a wooden form to jack up the arch, then start removing the arch from back to front.

Step 4: Take down the firebox. This involved removing the steel for the door, taking off a top layer of shelves and fibre blanket, and slowly starting to hammer out the bricks one by one.

Step 4: Take down the firebox. This involved removing the steel for the door, taking off a top layer of shelves and fibre blanket, and slowly starting to hammer out the bricks one by one.

Step 5: Use any means possible to take the rest of the rear of the kiln down. For us this ranged from gentle tapping and chiselling, to me standing in the kiln whacking the back wall down with the sledgehammer. Some of the bricks were so stuck together that they were not salvageable.

Step 5: Use any means possible to take the rest of the rear of the kiln down. For us this ranged from gentle tapping and chiselling, to me standing in the kiln whacking the back wall down with the sledgehammer. Some of the bricks were so stuck together that they were not salvageable.

Step 8: Grind and stack bricks on pallets. Stretch wrap and prepare for delivery.

Step 8: Grind and stack bricks on pallets. Stretch wrap and prepare for delivery.

For almost a year now, my good friend (and fellow woodfiring potter) Duncan have been working towards building our very own wood kiln. The last three years of my business have relied on the generosity of other potters - letting me rent space in their kilns, letting me crash on their couches or in a tent in their backyard, feeding me, allowing me to flit and fleet from one firing to the next (often on the same weekend), just so I can get my work made.

My studio practice has gotten to a place where I am making more work than I can possibly fire in other people's kilns. And I'm also at a production level that is a little less flexible when it comes to scheduling. Just like quitting a part-time job or hiring an employee, sometimes you can't grow unless you really start to invest in what it is you are doing.

Being a potter without a kiln, is like being a woodworker without a woodshop.  I'm a potter, so I need a kiln.


The first step to building your own woodkiln (aside from finding a location and working out the logistics of land leases and building permits etc. etc.) is to collect your materials.

Lucky for me, my husband (and neighbours) have patiently put up with me storing to-be-kiln-materials in my backyard, pretty much since we bought the place three years ago. I've been collecting insulating bricks and kiln furniture, steel and shelves for years now - and wood... I've stored LOTS and lots of wood. All we needed was some hard brick.

This past weekend Duncan and I, with the help of my partner Jesse and Duncan's brother Mike, tore down an existing woodkiln up north, and prepared the bricks to be delivered down to Hamilton. Our motto for this kiln: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We're using pretty much exclusively reused materials, repurposing old kiln shelves for our floor, and trying to reduce the amount of waste by using everything we possibly can! It was a lot of work, but we now have 10 skids of high temperature brick, all the steel we could need, and of course, we learned a TON in the process.

A big thank you to everyone who has helped us with this project so far!!

Step 9: Eat lots of girl guide cookies, listen to sweet tunes, and get a good night's rest after. Happy potters are we.

Step 9: Eat lots of girl guide cookies, listen to sweet tunes, and get a good night's rest after. Happy potters are we.

Step 2: Remove bag wall. This checkerboard wall was fused together, and needed to be smashed out with a sledgehammer.

Step 2: Remove bag wall. This checkerboard wall was fused together, and needed to be smashed out with a sledgehammer.

The guys.. demonstrating safe kiln removal wear (ie. respirators)

The guys.. demonstrating safe kiln removal wear (ie. respirators)

We make a good team! Arch is almost down!

We make a good team! Arch is almost down!

Step 6: Remove the last arch over the doorway, with wooden form and 2x4s for jacks. Also, appropriate footwear.

Step 6: Remove the last arch over the doorway, with wooden form and 2x4s for jacks. Also, appropriate footwear.

Step 7: Pull up the floor, and unbolt the steel frame from the ground. Note the pile of rubble in the background - a much smaller pile than we anticipated!

Step 7: Pull up the floor, and unbolt the steel frame from the ground. Note the pile of rubble in the background - a much smaller pile than we anticipated!

Wood Season

brazil

Over the past few years I've found that I work best under pressure; I need deadlines and commitments to work efficiently. At the beginning of each week I set myself a schedule of what I'd like to accomplish, on which day. It's wood firing season, and with a woodfiring on the horizon, time management becomes imperative. For each firing I plan the days I will sand and glaze, when I need to get my last bisque firing in, and how much time it will take for pieces to dry. This planning activates a side of my brain that I really enjoy using – I feel joy while filling out calendars and date books.

Last week I unloaded work from my fourth firing this year, and will be loading my fifth this Saturday. While I still need to sand and wash the pieces we just unloaded, I am instead pulling handles on cups and jugs, finishing up details on prototype vases, and adding rims to serving dishes for the firing coming up. Studio life is a constant balancing and juggling act – one that I am starting to get comfortable with. While one tray of bowls dries you throw creamers. While the creamers are drying you roll out slabs to get them stiffening and then start to trim your bowls. When the slabs are stiff enough to work with you build the walls for vases and slowly dry them while you finish the creamers. On it goes, a carousel.

Here are some photos of the pots that came out of last week's firing. It was my first time leading a firing in the Manabigama, and was delighted to have a great time of eager potters who wanted to learn about firing with wood. The pots turned out delightful.

insides

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List

I have really gotten behind with this blog. It seems like bi-weekly there is something worthy to write about, but I: 1. Run out of time to post, and then 2. Forget

or

1. Just forget.

Then by the time I have a moment to spare, and REMEMBER to write something, I feel like those many worthy tidbits have long since passed, and are no longer current, or fresh.

Anyway, I digress. So, maybe I'll make this post a list of some of those tidbits. I do indeed, like lists.

1. A friend bought these pots to use in one of her upcoming thriller/horror films. I'm not sure of the title yet, but I'll keep y'all posted.

MOVIE

2. My partner brought my kiln home from the West coast with him! I had the kiln surgeons at PSH do some maintenance and she is now ready to rock-and/or-roll. All I need is a house to put her in (and a name for her). That leads me to:

3. We are house-hunting. This means my focus on the studio has been distracted by duplexes and bungalows all over the Hamilton Region. Instead of coming home and spending hours looking at pots, I am now looking at dozens and dozens of houses.

4. I have set a date for my annual Open House. It will take place November 30 from 10am-4pm. There will be refreshments and snacks all day long, so come by and visit. I will be posting more information, along with directions, as soon as possible.

5. I will also be participating in Studio Huddle's annual Pop-Up-Shop this December. The shop will open December 4th and close December 22nd. More details to follow.

6. We've had beautiful weather over the past few weeks, and I've managed to make it on a few hikes amongst the autumn leaves. Bentley loves this weather too - he still can't help but jump into the creek and then make me wash him and pick burrs out of his fur later.

HIKE

7. We went to see the annual Demolition Derby at the Rockton World's Fair for Thanksgiving. Our idea of wholesome family fun is watching cars smash into each other. Fire and smoke are added excitement. The goats and sheep were pretty adorable too.

demo derby

7. The pots are being made, despite the house/hiking/show-prep/kiln distractions.  I've got boards of espresso cups and mugs at home that need to be decorated. I'm going to make some serving bowls this week.

Happy Monday!