four months is a long time to be away from home. just when i was wondering what i would do first when i get home, i heard about the anagama firing in GBP. ray built a smaller anagama, Chinnagama and we were about to do a first firing of the kiln in september.
i had just enough time to get over the jet lag and i started working in my backyard: my studio had couple of bags of clay, my tools, a big wedging/work table and my music. it felt like the perfect way to get back into a rhythm. my garden looked all green and luscious and i played my music and worked early mornings from 5 am to 11 to avoid the sun later on. i had to wrap all the work in bedsheet, hire a car and take the work to rakhee's studio to do a bisque. from there we both took our works to GBP.
the firing started on the midnight of 22nd and went on till 24th evening, a 42 hours firing. its a beautiful kiln, we had some really good results, just from the first firing.
now all the pieces from the Chinnagama are back in my place and am about to take some time off and put my energy into building myself a small studio. the year 2012 feels like a year of firings, already four major firings, i feel the need to take a break and i need to build a kiln!
a project for the next few months
Sunday, August 5, 2012
we decided early on that we will fire just the front chamber of the three chambered kiln, The Temple. josh suggested that the pipe clay, which he locally digs out of a farmland, high in iron turns really beautiful cranberry red/ deep brown in the front chamber with a specific kind of firing- with slow reduction cooling. so i kept aside all the pipe clay works for the front chamber of the temple.
we loaded the fornt with works by me, josh and dustin. mostly unglazed ware. joey sheen, a wonderful potter who is an integral part of all the firings at josh's kiln-space loaded the second chamber with his glaze-ware.the third chamber was filled with josh's large scale works, which will later go into The Shark, the anagama kiln which we will fire in the coming week, and the third chamber would reach just the bisque temperature.
we loaded on the 23 and 24th july and started the fire on the 24th midnight. josh started the fire and fired the night shift and the morning shift. joey and will took over in the afternoon, when me and dustin visited them in the evening the kiln was at 1441 F (782 C- yes thats the first things i did, once we set the firing date, to download a converter app into my iphone, turtle). they were stoking the front, with 4-5 medium looking logs, and by the time we left at around 7.40pm cone 08 was down at the back stack of the front chamber.
dustin and me got back to asheville, to pack up and hv a shower. dustin picked me up from my place at 11.15 pm and we got to the kiln-space at 11.45. the kiln looked beautiful, in the dark night. staring from the midnight till 2.30 we were just stoking the front, building up the heat. by 2.30am cone 7 and cone 5 were down at both the back stacks and cone 1 was showing movement. at 2.33 we started stoking the side stoke holes. 2.33 to 5.15am all three took in charge of three different stokes- josh stoking both the sides with long thin pieces of wood, dustin stoking the front centre with really thick logs of wood, and me stoking the base of the firebox, with lots of thin/short pieces of wood- its felt like the perfect synchronized arrangement.
at 5.15 am we closed the front bottom stoke hole and just continued stoking both the side stoke holes and the front centre.
at around 6am josh took the long shovel and picked up the ambers from the ashpit and threw it on the pots- trying to reach as far and wide as possible.
by 7.25 am we got cone 9 and cone 10s down in most places, but some cones refused to go down at the back bottom stack. so at 7.30 josh decided to do the 'wood-pig' technique- the name was very new to me. he took a bunch of thin long pieces of wood and filled the side stoke holes- so the holes were filled so much that there was hardly any place to put more wood in/ but becoz the pieces are so long that they stick out of the hole, till they burn real slow and fall into the kiln. this way, there is constant heat but you are also introducing air into the kiln as you are not closing the stoke hole completely with a brick.
the 'woodpig' was just magical, it did wonders- in one hour we got all the cones down.
by 8.28am we got all the cones down, stopped stoking the side stokes by 9am, but continued stoking the front.
josh introduces charcoal, once the front reaches the temperature. so at this point, charcoal was filled into long panels and was thrown inside the kiln through the side stokes and the front.
10.20 we closed the door. front was done.
joey started the fire at the second chamber at 10.10.
josh does, what he calls as 'slack reduction cooling'. the whole of the front is sealed and closed except for one tiny brick opening in the front centre. you continue to stoke the front with tiny/short/thin pieces of wood (almost) every 7 minutes. this goes on till the second chamber reaches the temperature and we end the firing all together- the second chamber takes anything between 8-12 hours to reach the temperature from this point. so i continued to stoke these tiny pieces. ah i forgot to mention that we didnt hv the pyrometer this firing- well we had one, but it stopped working few hours into the firing. so we did the whole firing by looking at the color or the cones. so usually when the pyro works, by the time the second chamber is done the fornt would hv cooled down to 1600 degrees F. this time, we just made sure that the color remains bright orange, hot in the front, and maintained this throughout the time joey/billy brown and danielle fired the second chamber.
it took around 10 hrs to get all the cones down in the sec chamber, so around 8 we were done.
we finished cleaning up, putting all the wood back, each one opened a beer and looked happily at each other...
it sure felt like a good firing.
Monday, July 2, 2012
i met Josh Copus, the founder of clayspace in Tasmania, at the woodfire conference. we took part in the woodfire competition, josh building the kiln and me being the chef cooking using the fire of the kiln. our team won the most number of wine bottles as prize!
“if u ever want to come to the States and work u know where to come”josh told me, in josh copus style. so it happened. josh had just started a international visiting artist program this year, and i came as the first visiting artist.
over a couple email exchanges, we decided the residency would be for three months. i like being in a place for some time, get used to the place, get into a routine of work, make friends, feel like part of where you live- all this is very important for me to produce work. and the kind of work I am doing now, all chunky robust pieces of work, which need slow drying, so a longer residency worked perfect for me.
the first day into Asheville, was the introduction to my first baseball game, and at least ten friends of josh- everyone knew my name, it felt like josh had already told half of Asheville about my arrival (well, josh knows almost 90% of the people in Asheville!).
clayspace is in the heart of the river arts district, a whole street full of artist studios. the studio is big, with a gallery in the front and five artists sharing the studio space. josh is a dreamer, a true visionary, super friendly and full of clay dreams and ambitions. he is already dreaming of a larger work space with more artists working in it. his woodfiring kilns at madison, which is half hour drive from asheville really proves how crazy he is, good crazy, as he calls it. i agree.
first couple of days i took time to get used to the place, meet people, remember all those new names (have my first beer at the wedge brewery, first tacos, first plate of tender ribs with corn and cheese grits on the side). the second week i used clay, which josh calls as pipe clay, which he digs out locally from a farmer's field. later in the week josh decided to make more clay. he had some porcelain clay already, to which he had added sand. "too sandy" he said, so we went out to Marshall, to Alex Matisse 's studio and collected some white clay with lots of grog and rocks in it and mixed it with the already existing sandy white clay. we worked on the pug-mill, my first experience of a pug-mill, (mostly josh working on the machine and me cutting the clay into slabs and sausages and packing them into the red truck) we had clay hump as tall as us by the end of two full days.
since then i have been spending most of my days, listening to loud music in the studio (getting education about rap music by josh, thats the true cultural exchange program he says) and working and i can see am slowly encroaching more space than am given...
we will be firing , first the three chambered kiln at end of july and later the first week of august, the anagama kiln. there is a new body of work which am totally excited about, and will post the photos once they are fired..
year 2012 seems like a year of change, a year of transition. after being in golden bridge pottery for four long years, i never wanted to go anywhere else. but once i built the house near auroville, travelling in that ecr road seemed more like a punishment. everyday i would thank my stars that i hv reached home safe. i told myself, if the change has to happen may be now its the time. i decided to make a small studio behind my house, in my tiny little backyard. i worked at rakhee's studio for sometime, bisque fired in her kiln and high fired in adil's newly built upma and as i was using my savings money to repair the house from the cyclone damages, i continued building small little things as studio parts in my house. i worked in my garden couple of hours in a day, mulching the kitchen garden which my friend malavika started, weeding in the garden, watering the plants, trying to steal flowering plants from my neighborhood, i enjoyed it all- just the way my garden was growing, i was putting together things for my future studio. one big wooden shelf to keep the finished work, one smaller shelf which i got for cheap price, malavika gave her ten year old gas kiln to me it came all the way from chennai in a truck, i contacted my contractor and got a wedging table and two clay tanks made. i know its just the beginning, i know its nothing compared to what i had in golden bridge, or what other studios around me have, but building this house i have learnt to take things slow, wait for things to happen, wait for things to grow from scratch- am all ready to water my studio, mulch the area, keep the weeds off and work in it hot and sweaty till i see it grow...
i have finally told myself that, year 2012 is a year of change- wait and see what happens