Ike Vega (Artist of the Day Apr. 16) sent me these great photos of the firing of the Anagama wood fired kiln. The entire firing and cooling process takes almost three weeks! I really appreciate him taking the time to send these photos, and describe the process so well.
“Photo 1: After I took this photo I opened one of those bags, which contains crushed oyster shells, and started laying them down on the most distant step. The crushed shells prevent work and shelf posts from sticking to the kiln floor.”
“Photo2: Shows progression of loading. Loading can take two to three days depending on the amount of work on hand. Each piece needs to be considered; size, shape, functional, or sculptural. The factors need to be taken into account because we want good air flow around and over pieces. We don’t want the kiln to get choked up. ”
“Photo 3: This is nearing the end of loading and the sun is starting to fade.”
“Photo 4: The door is almost complete. The front stoke door can be seen hanging from chains attached the beam above. Once all the spaces are filled in we mud up the door to fill in cracks to avoid heat loss as much as possible. Most of the work loaded is green (unfired) thus we keep temperatures very low (~200F) for about 24 hours. We work in shifts so people have time to sleep. Our end goal temp is about 2300F. This typically takes 9 to 10 days. ”
“Photo5: This is looking down and back along the kiln dome. A set of three stoke doors are on each side of the kiln. We stoke first from the front as the temp rises. Then as we meet designated temp goals, we start stoking from the side as well to move the flame through the kiln. Eventually a solid wall of flame moves from the front to the back and up the chimney.”
“Photo 6: When the firing is complete we let it cool for about 9 days. Even then the temp is well over 100F. We take down the door and remove the work. We layout the work in the order it comes out of the kiln from front to back. This allows us to see what was happening during the firing. Opening the kiln after a firing is like Christmas to many of us. ”