Wood Fire Effects in the Gas Kiln
Updated: Apr 14, 2019
One of my current projects I'm working on is trying to achieve wood kiln like effects in gas and electric kilns. Initially I was drawn to pottery by my interest in wood fire potter from New Brunswick, Canada, Lee Horus Clark. I was intrigued by the forms he created but mostly by the surfaces and glaze characteristics he was able to achieve by firing his pieces in an anagama wood fire kiln. From their I discovered other wood fire potters in New Brunswick like Darren Emenau, Ghita Levin, and David Eastwood.
I decided to complete an independent study in exploring wood fire techniques. During this independent study I have looked at wood fire potters locally, nationally, and internationally, designing wood fire kilns, and trying to achieve wood fire effects in a gas/salt/electric kiln.
For this part of the project I threw three bottle shaped vases and a wide mouthed vase. I then applied three different shino glazes and a nuka glaze to them and threw wood ash that I received from my partners grandparents wood stove onto one side of the pots. I then prepared wadding and placed it on a drip tray with oyster shells I received from Gahan House (an oyster bar in Fredericton, NB) atop the wadding. I carefully placed the glazed and ashed vases on the oyster shells and then placed the entire thing into the natural gas kiln. You can see all of this in the picture below.
Tomo Ingalls (a colleague and fellow potter) fired the gas kiln to a hot cone 10 temperature with a constant reduction on the way up, followed by a crash cool to 1085 celsius, and then an hour and a half hold in oxidation. I like Tomo's firings because she tends to achieve good body reduction in the clay body and a good amount of carbon trapping. This can be attributed to her experience firing the kiln and also her knowledge of the kiln for example where to place pots to achieve higher temperatures, more carbon trapping, or better reduction.
The top image is of the results achieved. I am very pleased with them. The ash ran around the pots in some cases attaching to the oyster shells beneath. The glaze melted into the oyster shells leaving the imprint of the shells which is a salient characteristic of wood fire pottery. The shino glazes turned out excellent because of the high
heat and carbon trapping achieved. My two favourite pieces from the firing were the two darker shino glazed bottle vases. There is a range of colours from the glaze, carbon trapping, ash, and shells. The final surface has a wide array of depth. I will include individual images below.
My next step for this project is to increase the size of the forms and stay with the bottle shapes. Using the shells again however this time I won't wash the shells so thoroughly. I had initially boiled, washed the shells in a mixture of bleach and water, and then baked them. Although this cleaned the shells (and got rid of the wretched smell), someone had mentioned to me that this may reduce the effects the shells give to the piece and I agreed. I may also try to saggar fire a piece surrounded by oyster shells. I had recently read an article about this and how you can achieve wood fire like effects in a 1999 article of Ceramic Monthly.