Thursday, June 2, 2011

Perfect time for another barrel firing - Part 1

At last another barrel firing at Rose's ! Bad weather and scheduling conflicts have been conspiring to prevent our little troupe to get together for our second barrel firing, but we finally caught up with each other and timed it perfectly with a beautiful day this Memorial Day week-end. We have learned much from our first firing, and we were ready.
The day unfolded in a regimented manner. First things first, we had to prepare our pieces. Under a large old pepper tree, we installed our chemical station, with large plastic tubes and grilles for pouring solution on top of our bisqued pieces. Our choices today: copper sulfate (4 tsp/gal) and ferrous sulfate (3 tsp/gal). Solutions were poured 3 times, letting the bisque absorb the liquid in between. Some pieces got both solutions poured on. Then they were let to dry in the sun for an hour. Some pieces also got an extra layer of commercial ferric chloride solution brushed on (Radioshack etchant solution), leaving the piece yellow.

Rose and Myra treating their wares

Nancy pouring Ferrous Sulfate

Rose and Myra applying Ferric Chloride

Drying downtime

Once the pieces were relatively dried (an hour in the sun), the fun really started. A teaspoon of copper carb here, a teaspoon of iron oxide there, some dried seaweed, oxide-soaked corn husks or cloth strips, a sprinkle of sugar/polenta/wild rice mix, salt, copper wire, whatever was in the boxes in Rose's studio. Get a few potters together in a room and creativity takes over. The energy was high, the anticipation ever higher. "What would happen if I...?" "Let's try it !" "We need more seaweed !"
Nancy's pieces, mostly thin slabs, were quite fragile. Bill kindly built nice little cocoons of chicken wire to protect them from the weight of burning logs. It is a great trick that has served us well, including lids and other small parts that would be too hard to find in the ashes.

Time for packing

Nancy in a creative moment

Bill on caging duty

Myra and Jim getting into it
Rose's studio turned into a burstling factory. Wrapped pieces were piled outside by the drums. Pieces treated with ferric chloride were wrapped in aluminum foil instead of newspaper, due to the corrosive nature of the chemical. We prepared those pieces in an analogous manner to the "baked potato" method of Eduardo Lazo (see February posts). However, the Lazo's method calls for a firing temperature of 1400F in a gas kiln. The wild temperature variations in a barrel were a big unknown. Will we get similar effects ? Different effects ? Anything exciting or plain dull ???
Well, the stage was set, with piles of wood of different sizes, starting with kindling and ending with big oak logs. I'll cover firing and results in my next posts ! 

Almost there !
The stage is set

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