Ember Management: The second part of the fiery story

by Ceramics

By Studio Participant Kate Lewis

After our night of food and fun, we began the firing process. Wayne started with a small fire at the base of the firebox with newspaper, kindling and dry weeds from the Makoto Yabe memorial garden. Slowly, the fire was hot enough to ignite a log that sat on the grates of the firebox. From that point, the temperature rose between 200-400 degrees an hour -- part of the kiln’s efficient design.

I had my labtop out early in the firing so that we could look at the pictures of previous firings we did in November to see how we had adjusted the air and stoked the kiln. I was keeping a written log of the time, temperature and adjustments we were making so that we could use this information for future firings. Zach, a computer programmer and participant from Mudflat, suggested that I keep the log online as a public google document so that we could graph the temperature rise as we fired. I was thrilled to continue firing in the spirit of Kusakabe-san who always had his laptop open in front of him during the firings, graphing information and making notes, Skyping with friends in Japan and showing off the kiln firing, as well as showing us clips of his favorite kung-fu movies. Because we kept the log online, Shawn Panepinto of the Harvard Ceramic Program was able to follow the details of the firing from the comfort of her home.

After 12 hours, the kiln reached its peak temperature of 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. We held it at this peak temperature for another 20 minutes to ensure the wood ash had melted on all of the ceramics. For an additional hour-and-a-half, we monitored the cooling of the kiln, a process which we termed "ember management" during the firings in November. By quarter-to-midnight, we had sealed it up again with newspaper and slip, and bid goodnight to the kiln. It must gradually cool down—we are eager to unload its treasures Wednesday at 11 am.

We also agreed early in the firing to create a Facebook group in order to easily share pictures and videos of the firing. During wood kiln firings, we encourage people who are interested in the process, but don’t have work in the kiln, to visit and see what the wood-firing process is all about. We had four human visitors and two loving canines come out to see what we were up to.