Actually, let me amend that statement.
This was the scene that met me AFTER I had spend nearly an hour stacking wood at the back of the kiln yard in order to create enough room in the kiln yard to be able to move around and get some equipment out of there, and a helper had stacked some of the split wood that had been prepared for the firing. At the stage when I took this photo I was ready to start splitting more wood for the firing while my helper stacked. It really is amazing just how much WORK goes into a wood kiln firing.The splitting of wood. The stacking of wood. The sawdust down your shirt. (guys, this is even worse when you wear a bra. Trust me.) The grinding of shelves. The making of wadding and "Dip" and cone packs. Not to mention the 2-3 hour loading process plus the 18 hour firing. (That's the fun part!) Makes firing a gas kiln look like child's play.
So? Why do we do it?
Well, the results have a wonderful, subtle beauty to them that you just can't get any other way, but I think it goes far beyond that. The kiln that I fire is at the community college where I work and I really love how great of a teaching tool that kiln is. Rather than being a gas kiln that gets turned on and checked once an hour, the wood kiln requires direct supervision by two students during the entire firing. There is no better way to observe the events of a firing than to watch as the kiln slowly climbs from 50 degrees to 2300, as the cones slowly start to fall throughout the kiln, sometimes with a lot of encouragement.
There's also the aspect of community that is so important to a wood kiln firing. It's such an intensive process, plus it's a really large kiln, that it necessitates a group to fire it. Many's the hour I have spent sitting around the kiln BS-ing with someone. I've had people tell me their life stories (literally!) while stoking the kiln. I've also had some crazy, goofy times trying to stay awake late at night. There's really no experience quite like it.
Firing the wood kiln certainly isn't for everyone. Many people would rather just put their work in an electric kiln, push a button and walk away from it. The results are much more predictable and repeatable, but I must admit that I really love the process of wood firing, even if I'm not always happy with the results.
I am also working on a wood project for my sculpture class. The idea is to cut a clay oval in two and fill the cut off part in with wood, forming a single piece made of two materials. I feel like I should be through this piece already, but I keep loosing the clay part in the kiln. (that's supposed to be the easy part!!!!) I working on oval number four right now, so keep your fingers crossed. I have been contemplating wood for this piece. I'm thinking that I may just go with some nice, soft, readily available pine for the first one, since I'll be trying to figure out how to carve the stuff.
Now, I'm not really a wood person. I do drool over the Thomas Moser catalog when it comes in the mail, but, to me, ash is something that accumulates on your pots and melts into a glaze. Wood is wood and is best used as fuel for a kiln ;) At the same time, there is something really appealing to a beautiful piece of finished wood. The smoothness of the piece and the warmth of the living material is very appealing. Perhaps that's what I want to capture with this sculpture is the hard, stone-like quality of the clay with the soft warmth of the living wood. Hopefully I can get this piece completed soon!
I will be heading out to Kansas this week to pour some metal. I'm really excited about this so stay tuned for pictures :)
Hope you all have a great week!