Wood Kiln Work Day

Twice a year (excluding the summertime), the Marywood Ceramics Department is offered the opportunity to get involved with a wood fire at Nan Burti’s Ceramics Studio in Fleetville, Pennsylvania, which I have written about a handful of times already, but lo and behold, it is that time of year again!

This past Saturday, Suzie Stone and Hannah Whittman, ceramics enthusiasts and future Where Creativity Works bloggers, joined me in driving out to help the crew at Nan’s. We were needed to do the usual preparation—split wood, create stacks, and sign up for a shift on the weekend of the firing. This time, however, our work day coincided with the loading day, something I’ve never experienced at Nan’s before. The loading had previously taken place on a weekday, which makes it hard for students with those pesky undergraduate courses running every hour on the hour to get out and get involved in it. This time however, we all got up close and personal loading… especially Suzie!


20160423_114420Placing thick, heavy shelves in an ordinary kiln is tough enough, but in loading the wood kiln, poor Suzie was contorted into such precarious positions, nevertheless smiling through every moment.

We really got some great exposure to the differences in loading this kiln versus the gas kilns at school. We talked about properly wadding every work that entered the kiln, which meant adhering three or four globs of groggy paste to the bottoms of the ware. This lifted the pieces off the shelves and further ensured no pieces would adhere to the shelves at such high temperatures. We talked about the way the heat and flames move into and through this kiln more laterally than vertically, and were mindful of placing the pieces with flashing slip and raw clay where they would obtain the best results—usually where there is the most exposure to the flame.

We all did our fare share of the grunt work too, and not for nothing. It was a chilly morning so the moving kept us warm, and we have plenty of logs prepped and ready to go for next weekend. Here’s Hannah and Matt doing some splitting.

20160423_114541With all the extra hands we had, we managed to finish loading and stacking way ahead of schedule, and in true Emma fashion, I was really reveling in all the camaraderie and teamwork going on around me. Ceramics has a funny way of bringing people together, and that never gets old.

20160423_130249Until the kiln door is bricked up, here the ware will sit! Cross your fingers and say a prayer to the kiln gods for us. Next weekend is going to be a good one!


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