In order to make functional pottery, one's clay must be fired. There are many ways to fire pottery. The most common way of firing for the contemporary potter is with electricity, or with gas. Woodfiring, as its name suggests, is where wood is the sole combustible material used to bring the pots up to maturity (roughly 2350 degrees Fahrenheit in my case) within the kiln. The process requires constant attention as wood must be manually fed into the kiln to keep the firing on schedule. These firings can last anywhere from a few hours, to 10 or more days in length. No matter how long, it still requires the same 'round the clock care.
The work inside of a wood kiln is not only subject to the heat from the fire, but also to the shifting atmospheres of reduction and oxidation, smoke, ash, embers, and volatile minerals from the burning wood wooshing through and around them. These factors in combination with the intense heat, chemically interact with the surfaces of the pots, creating one-of-a-kind, organic lines, patterns, glazes and flashes. Flames hug curves, jump over edges, and lick around lips, physically leaving a hint of their path along the surfaces of the pieces. Colors and textures get layered on with the different types of wood being fed, and atmospheres that are occurring throughout the firing. Wood ash builds up on any horizontal surface that it can find and eventually melts, creating a natural glaze. The look of the end product tells the story of the firing as a whole.
One of my favorite aspects of the woodfire process is that it tends to foster community and create a collective atmosphere. It allows us, who spend many solitary hours making in our respective studios, to come out, work together, trust and rely on one another to successfully complete the process. In these long hours together we tighten our bonds. We share stories and experiences, ideas and techniques. We ponder life's questions, we laugh together, and also enjoy eachothers' silent presence. It is always a truly wonderful time.
Not yet having a wood kiln of my own, I have relied entirely on the generosity of others who have invited me into their firings. I owe all of them an enormous thank you for the opportunities that they've provided me with and for all of the experience and knowledge gained because of it.