Friends, Food and Firing: The first part of the fiery story

by Ceramics

By Studio Participant Kate Lewis

Marshmallow peeps. Nachos with avocado and black bean dip. Roasted garlic on sesame bread. Green olive pizza. And one oven chamber. The spring firing of the Harvard and Nobles Green Fire Wood Kiln was a delicious community collaboration of Harvard and Mudflat studio members. A group of seven ceramic artists, lead by Harvard instructor and wood-firing potter Wayne Feurst, spent Sunday outside amidst the off-and-on showers in order do the work necessary to achieve the special results of a wood-fired kiln.

This collaborative venture began on Saturday, when the firing crew bonded by completing a spontaneous team-building activity: establishing a giant tarp tent to keep us dry during the spring showers. It was a cold, raw day and the air was filled with mist when it was not drizzling. We soon gathered inside to thaw our bodies and prepare little round wads made of a mixture of clay, alumina hydrate, sawdust and flour. These little balls are stuck with glue to the bottom of our ceramic pieces to keep them lifted off the kiln shelves during the firing. If the wood ash causes a bead of glaze to run past the foot of the pot, these wads save the shelf from being destroyed by the melted glaze.

During the glaze session at the studio the night before, Wayne found some unglazed pieces that the kiln’s designer, Kusakabe Masakuzo, had made during his visit to lead the kilns first firings in November. Wayne glazed these pieces with the Harvard studio’s ‘nephsy’ glaze to include in our firing for good karma. After about six hours of carefully stacking all the participants’ pots in the kiln, another hour was spent bricking up the door and sealing the kiln with newspaper and slip (a fluid mixture of clay and water). Just before we left the kiln at 8 p.m., Wayne made a little watch dog out of clay and perched it above the firebox for good luck. Stay tuned for the firing results and more details!

[Caption: Round wads made of a mixture of clay, alumina hydrate, sawdust, and flour; post firing.]