Wood Season


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.


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Polar Vortex II

photoMany of my fellow humans in Southern Ontario were irritated with the coming of  "polar vortex part 2"  this week. But, the snow storm came to me as a blessing. Instead of braving the roads (and drivers!) into work, I took the day to stay at home and finally made some pots in my new studio. The studio isn't fully functioning yet. Our severely sloped floor is limiting the amount of shelves I can put up (ie. none, as they lean FAR, FAR away from the wall) and therefore, there are still a lot of boxes of stuff hanging around on the floor. I need to make pots for this woodfiring though, so I wedged up some clay on my rickety table and spent the afternoon throwing mugs, espresso cups and tealight holders. It was a lovely way to spend the day.

While the wind whistled  and the snow piled up on our porch, I sat inside with the woodstove crackling away, and a very happy cat watching me throw.

Happy spring/dead of winter.

Video - Robin Dupont

Robin Dupont is a ceramic artist from British Columbia who specializes in wood fired pottery. He was nominated for the RBC Emerging Artist Award in 2013 at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto. Each of the artists nominated for this award had to make a video to be played during the exhibition. Robin was the only potter nominated for this award, and his video sums up my love for making, wood firing, and designing objects to be used. I particularly love how he talks about how he is collaborating with food, and drink, and flowers. What a humbling way to think about one's artwork. Enjoy!


Manny, the Manabigama

Fall is upon us, and winter is approaching. This means a decrease in wood firings until the weather picks up again: nobody wants to load a wood kiln in -30C. IMG_3852


Last week I had my second firing at the Hamilton Potter's Guild Manabigama (I lovingly like to call him "Manny"). It was also my last firing in that kiln for the season. At the end of August, I fired it for the first time with four lovely women - two of whom I knew from Sheridan. The first time you fire any woodkiln, you can't expect much. With each firing there is so much to learn about the path of the flame, the hot and cold spots, how to reach temperature at an efficient, but steady pace, and which glazes look good where, if at all. But after seeing the results from that first firing, I was convinced I needed to fire this kiln again.


So, I participated in the second firing last Friday, with the hopes of reproducing some of the nice effects that I received the first time around. There were four of us on this firing, and the weather was perfect - cool in the morning, and warming up as the day went on. It was a beautiful day to be outside firing a kiln.


The results, as always, were varied. I ended up with a couple racers, several so-whats, and of course, some seconds. The beauty (and sometimes the trouble) with wood kilns is how unpredictable they can be. It is common to end up with a lot of seconds, and you can only bank on getting a couple FANTASTIC pieces out of each firing (if any). I was lucky to be content with most of the work, though many pieces I need to re-fire.

The end of the Manabigama season has come to a close, but I'm still helping Marcelina Salazar fire her soda-wood kiln. The next firing is the end of October. Until then, I'll make more pots.

August Firing - Firing #1

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September Firing - Firing #2

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