Because of Covid I’m missing annual pilgrimage to Somerset to do some wood firing. Normally my pots are fired in an electric kiln, but wood firing is something special – not to be confused with low temperature “smoke firing” which produces black smokey patterns but is not at all food safe, high temperature wood firing goes to stoneware temperatures typically around 1280-1300°C.
Wood fired glazes can produce superb depth and complexity especially when the kiln is deliberately starved of oxygen at high temperature to create chemical “reduction”. Pots often show mottling where ash from the firing lands on them as it passes through the kiln and this can be tremendously variable depending on where the pots are staked in relation to the how the hot gasses from the firing flow past. This variability and unpredictability helps create the uniqueness of every pot.
Naked unglazed clay turns a wonderful toasty colour and ash landing on it melts forming a “natural” glaze in-situ as can be seen on the bare outer surface of this bowl.
It’s always exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measures to get commissions. Here’s an example of some recent work – four unique small (10cm) dishes and, in a follow-up order, two noodle bowls to match.
Of course a key part is working out what your client wanted and how to achieve it. However the nerve-wracking part is balancing the variability of the glazing effects and yet controlling enough elements to keep a matching set. Artistically speaking, how far can one explore a theme without loosing the theme? Then there are the unknowns introduced by the kiln gods on firing day and the long wait for it to cool so you can finally see the results.
Another nail-biting moment is presenting the work to the client and hoping they’ll like it. A repeat order means you must have done something right, but even then you go through the same emotions.
I’m more than happy to take commissions, do contact me and discuss your ideas.
Here are some lovely Ikebana vases. They are made from stoneware clay, thrown and then altered by hand so they have unique asymmetries. They are individually glazed and single-fired to 1260 degrees centigrade.
Perfect for stylish and dramatic flower arrangements.
Here are some gorgeous tiny wee stoneware bowls. They are only 7 to 10cm diameter and were thrown “off the hump”. This is a technique where several are formed out of one lump of clay on the wheel, saving time and effort as you don’t need to center a new ball of clay for each one.