Monday, May 11, 2009

Kiln shed

Main fire box.

Frank stoking the fire.

"Peep" hole

Inspecting the flame.

Junji and Willi

Sealing up the stoking ports.

Spring firing at Willi Singleton's noborigama kiln, Hawk Mountain, Pa.

Spent the weekend helping to fire a kiln. My brother has been helping out for nearly a decade and I was lucky enough to be able to join him this time. When we arrived Saturday evening they were stoking the main fire box. By the time our shift came around early Sunday morning, they were stoking the second chamber. By 4 in the afternoon all the chambers had been fired and the kiln was sealed up. In about three days, after the kiln has cooled down, the pottery will be removed. Think barn raising and sitting around a campfire all wrapped up into one. The flame is mesmirizing and has something just a little bit holy about it.

Willi on firing: "Firing is not something to be rushed through as quickly as possible. The Thanksgiving ritual of spending all day cooking the turkey and side dishes is more like my idea of firing: gathering with friends and spending all day (or two) enjoying the undertaking. The memorable Thanksgivings in my life have been as much about preparing the food with people you enjoy and care about as sitting at the table and partaking of the meal. My firings, which take place twice a year, have been made possible by the friends and family that gather kiln-side and work in concert. It may not be gourmet cooking, but the warmth and camaraderie can be felt, and the opportunity to interact with the powerful flame leaves an impression on participants. It may look like a party at times, but there is serious work going on and the experienced stokers know that good timing and focusing on the flame is paramount." from "Slow Clay".

Working with a group of people, many of whom I had never met before, was a blast. Thanks to Willi, Celia, Tom, Bev, Junji, Micah, Charlie, Audrey, Andrew, Frank, Barney, and many others who made the weekend so much fun.

1 comment:

Thomas Armstrong said...

John, thanks for this. Willi and i figured out that I'd been helping for about 13 yr.s. It's the combination and opportunity to do serious work and party at the same time that keeps people coming back, and the opportunity to meet a diverse and engaged community that make's going to these firings something i don't want to miss. It's a rough and ready work call in the midst of an international salon. It's no surprise that Nippon TV came over to do a piece in the wilds of PA, as Willi has transported the Japanese tradition and I think some of the culture here. Some fun, eh kids?