Through the Fire....

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

Wood Fired Pottery

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

‘Wood-Fired’ is a term generally used to describe pottery that has been fired in a kiln fueled with wood, usually to a temperature of between 1000 and 1300 degrees Celsius.

The fire must be tended and stoked throughout the entire length of the firing, which can last from 3 to 5 days depending on the design of the kiln. During the firing ‘fly-ash’ from the fire is drawn into the chamber, settling and eventually melting to form a natural ash glaze on the surface of the pottery. These effects give the pottery its unique “alive” look.





The Kiln

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

A great deal of planning goes into the building of a wood-fire kiln.




The Kiln

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

I am thrilled to be firing a train kiln that I built with three partners. It is located on the Sunshine Coast and we fired it for the first time in January 2009.



Wood

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

The wood is chopped and split for ease of handling and stored under cover to keep it dry. Firings in the anagama kiln use up to six cords of which at least two cords have to be split into small – 2” diameter – sticks for side stoking.

Splitting continues day after day. . . .



Loading

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

Two days are spent loading the kiln. Each pot must be “wadded” with a high-temperature glaze resistant clay. The marks left by the wadding become the recognisable signature of a wood-fired pot.

Meticulous care is taken in loading to ensure the safety of everyone’s work …

Firing

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

Finally, the loading is finished and the front door is bricked up. A small fire is started outside the kiln and tended for about 24 hours. The fire is drawn into the kiln without risk of overheating the pots in the firebox. Potters are organized into groups of 2 to 4 people to work 8-hour shifts. The communal process is laden with constant decision-making and the vagaries of group dynamics.

Night Shift

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

Night time is the most magical.
As the heat inside the kiln rises, it can get pretty hot when you open the door to stoke; face and neck protection is advised.
After 3 days the side stoking begins.
After 5 days of stoking the dragon roars!
The wondrous reward of the midnight shift – sunrise over the mountains…




After Firing

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

After waiting three days for the kiln to cool down, everyone is anxious to see the results.




Kiln Opening

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

We must be patient as the wares continue to cool enough to unload.



Unloading

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

Layer by layer, the transformed work is revealed.




Checking it out

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

The vessels are set out on tables for everyonr to admire.



Woodies

Jinny Whitehead Process of Wood Firing Pottery

Most wood-fire potters would agree that it is not just the firing itself that is most important but the whole experience of being involved in every aspect of the process. Most exciting of all is being part of a group of people with all efforts concentrated on a single goal. Wood firing is an event that is more than just firing pots.