Winter is Coming

Well, we can't really ignore it anymore - winter is coming. It's come to the time of year where the woodstove in the studio gets dusted off and tidied up, filled with wood and lit on fire. It's a cozy place to be on a cold and rainy day like today.

It's also been a really busy place! October is one of those months that doesn't have a TON of stuff going on in itself, but there is an incredible amount of winter prep happening. Wood being stacked for winter, making sure the furnace still works, and in my case the preparation for the holiday season could not be busier.

Woodfired plates, minimalist black and white.


I just unloaded another woodkiln this past weekend, with lots of fresh new work and lots of my favourite styles still at play. I like to always have something new in each firing, so this time it was stamping, and plates, and vases. And of course there were a ton of mugs. Lots and lots of mugs. And just in time for the start of the holiday sales! The first one is this weekend in Puslinch/Aberfoyle, at the Aberfoyle Potters Market. I'm looking forward to visiting with some of my pottery friends, and getting back into the swing of the show season. Hope to see some of you there! For details about the show, visit the Aberfoyle Potters Market Facebook Page.

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!

Choo Choo

I've been away from the blog for a few weeks, as I was at a conference, and then studio reno-ing (more on that another day) and then Supercrawl. A start of a busy September indeed!

 Hamilton mugs! 

Hamilton mugs! 

Now that I'm back in the swing of things (and the fire bans have been lifted), I've stuffed my van with pots and have headed up north to start firing for the holiday season! This is my first time firing a train kiln, a kiln design that looks like a train car, and when fired correctly should make that warm and cozy chugging sound. My kind of sound. 

 Pots unpacked and ready to be loaded

Pots unpacked and ready to be loaded

This firing is particularly special, as it is the last firing this kiln will ever see! After unloading next week, Duncan Aird and I will be tearing her down, and giving the bricks a new life in our very own kiln back down in the Hammer! Buildings are underway and we're hoping to have the beauty built before Christmas. 

So I'm up here toasting this sweet kiln many thanks, with good company, and good food, and looking forward to many firings ahead!

 Jeff Martens, loading the kiln like a boss. 

Jeff Martens, loading the kiln like a boss. 

 Stacked.  

Stacked.  

Patterns: Part One

 
 

The studio operates like a creaky tin man. When well oiled, it's smooth sailing and I get through throwing weeks or decorating weeks exactly as I had planned. I throw. I decorate. I do the work.

Sometimes I forget to oil the tin man.
And I usually forget to oil the tin man right around 1 week before every firing, and the studio falls into pieces. A shit show ensues. Our regular programming of efficiency, scheduling and organization crumbles to bits, and minor hysterics take place.

I've wondered why this happens, every time, like clock work. The rest of the time goes by so smoothly! What the hell happens one week before every firing?!

Spoiler alert: I'm a little crazy.

I have a thing for nicely stacked pots. I like to see them in neat little rows, lined up like soldiers ready for battle. I like to see stacks of bowls piled high, patterns made from their matching silhouettes. I like to stack my bisque kilns efficiently, with pots inside pots inside pots. Every space is filled, rows of jugs lined up in concentric circles spiralling out from the centre of the kiln to the edges. I like pattern. I like repetition. But after most of the work has been put through the bisque kiln, there are always weird tid-bits left over. They never fit properly. They don't make nice clean rows. They're never the right height. There's always one damned vase that needs to fit on a shelf with a whack of plates (because, of course, I hate firing plates, so I leave them until the very last firing, which only encourages this predicament). The bisque kiln is chaos, the leftovers on the shelf are chaos. Chaos breeds chaos. And a chaotic space makes for a chaotic mind. A chaotic mind means I forget that I shouldn't have coffee in the morning, or that eating lunch is important. I start to misplace my tools, stop taking breaks, and end up working longer days, every day.

Thanks to this pattern of week-before hysterics, there's always a "last-minute day on the schedule. It's tomorrow. Last minute decorating, last minute speed-drying, last minute bisquing. Wednesday and Thursday are glazing and wadding days. We'll be back on schedule by then, just give it a few all nighters.