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A Dash of Salt

October 22, 2011

This week the salt kiln was finally fired. I have been asking/nagging James to fire the salt kiln for about a month. Once other people heard they got on board and started to make pieces for the salt kiln too. The salt kiln is so named because salt is added near the end of the firing to add texture to the pots. This was my first time to have anything fired in the salt kiln so I was very excited and nervous. It is always a gamble whether a glaze will do what you plan and the salt kiln adds another element. I left the outside of my pots bear so the direction of the flame and salt would show up. I got the added benefit of getting a little tent of pink on my pieces thanks to the iron in much of Amy’s glazes. She had about as many pieces in the kiln as I did. Since I had so many pieces in the firing and promised to do so as encouragement to fire the kiln, I helped James with many steps of the firing.

Since the walls of the kiln are also covered in salt James had to chip off much of the kiln ceiling. This would prevent any small pieces from falling on our pots. Then James, tired of the tiny brush, slung the kiln wash on the inside walls and then I smoothed it out. The wash helps the walls last longer against erosion of the salt.

In order to get the pieces ready to load I organized them based on size so we could easily put the shelves together. A hassle of the salt kiln is that all the pieces need little balls of wad clay stuck to the bottom so they will not be stuck to the shelves. I was also able to help James with this time consuming part of the process. Once loaded James let the kiln run to temperature for several hours. Near the very end of the firing we took three large jars of salt and made salt burritos with news paper. Ceramics would be a good hobby for pyromaniacs since you get to play with fire. Every fifteen minutes we would toss a few of the salt burritos in the back of the kiln and watch them burn up and turn green. Past the large flames I could see all the pots had turned a glowing bright white.

We were finally finished with the firing, but I had to wait two loooong days to see how the pieces turned out. If they are pulled out too early the glaze may crack. Thursday evening we were finally able to open the kiln and it was a great success. The bowls I created with dark clay turned a dark purple and the brush work I painted on the outside of my pots turned out great! My husband Tommy came with me to see how everything turned out. The blurry person to the left of the second picture is Amy. As Amy and I pulled out pieces we easily got distracted inspecting our newly fired pieces. Tommy continued the work of pulling when we got distracted.

This last picture is of a few of my pieces stacked as we pulled them out of the kiln. These are the tea bowls from the previous blog. Before they were fired the clay was an orange color and now they are a lovely dark purple. The color change due to the salt is amazing!

Here are some photos of the fished pieces taken by my talented photographer sister Robin Durrett.


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