The Cave kiln was fired on Thursday.
We got our little kiln very hot! The first cave reached 1300C at about 11pm, and by 1am we had the second cave up there too.
At the start the kiln was still throughly damp, but despite that the matrix of clay rushes, kelp and moss held firm, it moved and changed shape as the wall dried out.
It purred along quietly for several hours, the heat drying out the walls of the cave first of all, then the temperature leapt as the reeds and moss started to burn out in the first cave.
Early evening with the temperature around 1000C the most torrential rain came on.We leapt into action, covering the kiln with fibre to protect the raw clay.
It was hard to keep concentration on what was happening with the fire at this point, people were arriving to view the kiln and enjoy the barbecue, we were swapping around with who was firing the kiln, and we had lost our rhythm. I had made the fire-box longer, and we had rendered the chimneys in moss and clay, but clinkers were beginning to build up at the back of the firebox, so for a period of time the firing stalled. We began clearing them with a lot of riddling with a crow bar, but Mike’s hot air blower worked a treat and soon we were storming ahead.
It was dark by the time we started firing the second cave. It roared up in temperature, but the cones were in the bottom corner near the thick base of the chimney, where the reeds were charred but unburnt, so obviously a lot cooler than the rest of the kiln. We judged the temperature from the colour of the kiln rather than from the cones and later, when we looked at the glazes and clay body later we saw that all but that corner bottom corner was fired up to the correct temperature.
We left the kiln until Sunday to unpack. It was lovely sunny day and I was delighted to see the colours of the clay as we unwrapped it from the fibre. A yellow vitrified stripe up the centre of the kiln with pink bisque rings around the lid galleries, and a pink and grey stripe at the bottom. The lids and door came off easily to reveal the toasty salt glazed interior, a lovely contrast in colour and texture to the outside.
Inside we had a mixture of mugs to be shared by all the volunteers, work by everybody involved, a big urn and sculptures that were formed in exactly the same way as the walls of the kiln.
I felt so happy that the kiln had worked so well and looked so beautiful, and I am excited with thought that with a little alteration to the chimney I could fire it again.
I must thank lots of people who helped me make the kiln.
Kirsty Body and the panel for the Visual Artists and Makers Award
Amy Benzie and Brodie Birss, who have worked so hard for 6 weeks making slops, cutting reeds and covering them with clay. I am truly humbled by their commitment to the project and their willingness to see things through.
Volunteers Rod Mann, Dylan Cundall, Oakley Cundall, Alison Grubb, Jo Daley, Sean Birss and Aidrian Reid who all worked really hard in all sorts of capacities, from building the kiln to landscaping the slope, clearing paths and chopping wood.
My good friend Lotte Glob for help with the firing, she knew that if we kept going we would overcome all the firing problems and she was right!
And finally my family Bob, Max and Leo for all their help and for putting up with my obsession for all these weeks!!!