Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Exploring The Magical Soda Kiln

Before I dive into my first foray into soda firing, I must acknowledge the mega-robusticity of one Mr. Bob Schultz.  Bob just finished all of his pieces for his upcoming show, Joy on The Spiritual Path: The 5 Dhyani Buddha Buddies and Their Friends. Here is a shot of Bob in his studio with everything crated up and ready to be loaded for the roadtrip to Tulsa. You can read about Bob by clicking on this LINK to an earlier post.

So this past weekend I participated in my first soda firing.

I wanted to fire a combination of some of my woodfired pieces and a few pieces that had only been bisque-fired.  There were several steps/tasks we had to accomplish prior to firing up the kiln.  Shelves had to be ground down and recoated with kiln wash (so our pieces didn't fuse to the kiln shelves). We also had to make a bunch of kiln wadding (which is equal parts epk (Edgar's Plastic Kaolin) and alumina) in order to level out some shelves and to place under our pieces so they would be separated from the shelves.  These arrows point to some of the gloppy kiln wadding used between two posts and between the post and the kiln shelf.

After that preparatory work was completed, it was time to load the kiln......

The pieces were spaced relatively far apart to allow airflow around the pieces (which allows the soda to move around a coat the pieces).

After a while the kiln was loaded.  All we needed to do was add 5 test rings and a couple of cone packs, close the door, and kick that sucker up to 80!

Roughly 12 hours after we had turned the burners on, our cones were starting to 'drop', so it was time to toss some burritos into the mix.  By burritos, I mean a mixture of 1 pound of baking soda and 2 1/2 pounds of soda ash, dissolved in water and then sopped up with a bunch of sawdust.  This quasi-oatmeal-esque mixture was placed into 10 'burritos' made out of newspaper.  We alternated between sliding the burritos into openings in the kiln and also spraying soda ash dissolved in water into the burner ports.

Every 20 minutes or so, Bob Schultz would pull out a brick in the side of the kiln door, sneak a metal rod into the kiln and fish out one of the five ceramic test rings we left inside.  Looking at the soda accumulation on the rings we could gauge how the firing was progressing.  Once the spray and the burritos were depleted, it was time to wind the firing down.

2 days later, we opened the kiln......

On the top shelf towards the back, you can see two of Veronica Watkins' pots after the re-fire (she was not satisfied with the results on those two pieces after the woodfire).

As best as possible, I have tried to show the following pieces as they looked before they went into the kiln and how they turned out after the firing.

This next one changed radically from 'before' and 'after'.

The five pieces with color were re-fires from our woodfire back in December (you can read about it HERE).

Here's how they looked after the firing.

A few others......

Some of these works may show up in North on 71......

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