Wednesday, 12 October 2011

My kingdom for a kiln

At the beginning of the year, after about a years worth of planning, designing and reading every kiln book I could get my hands on and as many JAC articles as I could, I built a kiln. 

The Beast - before burners and gas pipework

It’s a four burner, sprung arch, trolley kiln of about 27 cubic feet total internal capacity.  I think the biggest challenge was financing it, but the beast is quietly roaring outside as I type this and it’s turning out to be brilliant and a huge boost to my work – room for heaps of production and space enough for large sculpture.  Every home should have one!

Well, I’ve just turned the beast off.  It reminds me why we, as ceramic type people, focus so much on technique.  It’s because its so damn hard.  The kiln I’ve just switched off is at least two cones different top to bottom with a questionable reduction of all pots within it and I’m left wondering once more why do I keep doing this?  “How” is the question we have to answer first because a failure in this area means nothing to show at all.  “Why” still needs to be an important question, but if the only thing that comes of a kiln is land-fill, maybe the “why” should “why do I bother?”.


  1. Congrats Charmain. My major project over the summer is to get my beasty up and running. I think you've hit the nail on the head with the "How". What's more frustrating than having a great idea and not being able to do anything about it? not much.
    ps, is the kiln hotter at the top or bottom? Have you got any ideas on how to rectify?

  2. Now THAT'S a kiln!! Wow, it's heaps better than my commercial electric, Charmain. Don't you dare give up on it! We all have disaster firings, even when we think we know what we're doing. You're in the early stages of learning about your kiln (okay its not great timing for the exhibition) but you will get to know it and you will be the envy of your fellow bloggers... I'm sorry I can't offer technical advice but I don't know very much about gas kilns.

  3. Reading your line about questionable reduction made me think of something someone said to me at Sturt (honestly can't remember who)... That the only way to ensure a really good all over copper red was to be in the kiln with the pots, adjusting things from the inside. Failing that, how does one ensure a good all over reduction?

    What made you think yours was questionable? I'm guessing it's long cooled and unpacked by now so...
    Pictures? Comments? Was the reduction as bad as you were thinking? Tell / show us more!

    On a related note - and some of you other bloggers who do so might also like to shed some light - why reduce at all? Yes, i know about Celadon Tenmoku Chun and the many variations of copper red - but the question remains...

    And what about those of you with electric kilns - do you pine for the roar of a gas kiln under heavy reduction at 1300?

  4. ps - i forgot to say - totally concur with Jo - THAT's a kiln! Bloody beautiful. Any photos of it in action?

  5. Reduction also changes the colour of the clay! Gives it a warmth! So I do kind of feel sad I haven't got a roaring gas kiln in the back yard! I even lust after a wood fired kiln! (Release the inner pyromaniac!)

  6. Apologies for my tardiness in replying, I'm under the gun making production for a big market next week. The kiln in question wasn't anywhere near as bad as I thought (don't believe a potter about the kiln until the kiln has been opened). The temperature mismatch is the biggest worry, but the reduction was mostly okay. I love the idea of being in the kiln making adjustments whilst firing!

    I made a decision at uni that my main firing technique would be to use a gas kiln in reduction. I find there are subtleties of colour response between clay and glaze that can be beautiful, and the colour the clay turns (with the production ware) is a warm speckled dark chocolate brown - so agreed, Anne-maria, the warmth and the colour. Pictures after the next kiln load (if it works, but no posting until after the kiln is open).

    Ps. Heavy reduction to 1300C is unnecessary and a massive waste of fuel, but that’s just my two cents worth.