Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Ice

Overnight the rain fell and turned to ice that glazed the trees, the roads, and our long driveway making it hard to walk up to the sawdust firing. But the fire kept going through out the storm and didn't stop until about 8PM tonight. For 29 hours the firing barrel smoked and slowly burned through the sawdust. I can't wait to see how the beads came out. It was still too warm to open the can tonight. I will look tmorrow.
It amazes me that the fire kept going through the heavier rain, wind and ice. At one point I was sure that it had gone out as the can felt cold. But then I caught a red glint from one of the air holes and smelled smoke and knew it was still alive. This picture was taken at about 11AM the next morning and the fire was still going strong.
A Sawdust Fired Pendant Vessel
This pendant vessel came out of a sawdust firing done on January 8, 2006. Again the weather was cold but there was no rain or snow falling. I had used very fine and dry sawdust and the fire burned out much more quickly. It was started at about 4PM but was completely burned out by the morning. This pendant has a glazed stripe down the front and back, has been previously pit fired, and was painted with a coat of copper carbonate before it was put in the the barrel. I think it came out very well and I love the pinkish aura around the stripe.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Fire

Here is the can in which the saw dust firings have been done this month. The white ball on the top is a porcelain bead that will work its way down the burning material and be a surprise for me when I empty out the can when it cools off. The white on the ground is snow. It was a very cold day when this can was fired but it did well anyway. This particular firing took place on January 8, 2006 and was composed of fine, very dry sawdust. The fire was begun in the late afternoon and was completely burned down by morning.

Bead Preparation

Today, at about 3:00 PM I began to light the fire for a new sawdust firing. It is a cold day, despite being warm for January. It is about 24F and a winter weather advisory is calling for freezing rain. Luckily, I got the firing started before the rain, and now that everything is getting a gloss coat of ice, the beads are toasty warm and the fire is smoking away.
Today I used a number of small porcelain beads that had been bisqued at cone 06. They were strung on rebar wire and hooked to the framework I use which just fits into the sawdust firing chamber which is a large can with some holes drilled into it. I spritzed the beads with water and then tossed some copper carbonate powder on them, hoping that the water would hold the powder closer and longer to the beads and have an affect on their color. We shall see. In addition, I strung some larger porcelain bisque beads with 28 guage copper wire which I strung in the central hole. This is supposed to affect the color as well. I am now going to upload a photo of those beads so that you can see how the copper wire was strung. That photo is above this text.

These beads were set on top of the sawdust, and then I put banana peels, scraps from picture frame moldings and shavings on top of them. This whole assortment of wood, sawdust and organic material was lighted with a match and began to burn as the wind whipped around the burning can. The wire wrapped beads will work their way down the fire and end up on the bottom after they have been exposed to all levels and additives of the fire. I will be sure to post these exact beads when the barrel cools off. This won't happen before tomorrow night even though it is very cold out. I expect the fire to burn all night. This sawdust is coarse, left over from the Amish sawmill cuttings, and is slightly damp. It takes longer to burn than the fine sawdust I used a few weeks ago.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Above is a picture of some beads that were fired either in the pit or in a can with sawdust. The range of grays, blacks and inbetween shades is incredible and is solely the result of the fire and smoke on the beads. I have found that using porcelain clay as a body gives a softer and wider range of colors. These beads were mostly cast from porcelain slip. It gives the bead a creamier quality and I think that the whiteness of the porcelain is more open to trapping the carbon from the smoke than other clay bodies. These beads were bisque fired to cone 06. I am going to try cone 010 as I have read that bisquing at that temperature, which is considerably cooler than 06 will leave the clay body more porous and again trap the carbon better. I will surely post those results but it will be awhile as I haven't bisqued the beads yet, and in fact I haven't even made them. I am still working on a pile that I bisqued at cone 06. And before I forget to mention it, the beads in the above picture are for sale on the Justbeads.com site in the Ceramic category. Currently the Beads of Clay Yahoo Group is putting forth a group effort to put as many artist beads made of clay on the Ceramics categoryas possible. Last I looked we were up to 50. A great chance to see some of the best beads being made by ceramic artists today. You can learn more about this group at http://www.beads-of-clay.org/.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Pit Firing

Sally Hartman and I did our first pit firing last summer in a great spot by the river that runs through my farm. We used hay, straw. shredded paper, veneer scraps, wood and lots of dead twigs and grass. We had a great time and fell in love with pitfiring. The results were wonderful. Now we have gotten funding by New York State Council on the Arts to do a pitfiring workshop this summer. Our funding conduit is the Canton Public Library. So my plan is to use this blog to record in words and pictures all the sawdust firings and pit firings I do between now and this summer and to show our results from the summer workshop. This should be a sharing of knowledge and hopefully will inspire others to try out this wonderful way of firing clay.
Sally makes weed racks and bowls and I make beads, buttons and pendants. Now Sally is getting interested in jewelry too, as pit fired beads and earrings look so fantastic when set with silver findings and spacer beads.
This first pitfiring lasted 2 full days before it was cool enough for us to dig out our treasures from the ashes. Here is a picture of the pit filled and in full fire:

Raku Bead Video Part III