All of our pottery is handcrafted out of porcelain or stoneware on our family farm in southern Manitoba. Each piece is thrown on a potters wheel, then it is carved or textured to emphasize the unique firing atmosphere of the wood kiln.
All work is fired once up to 1000 degrees Celsius in an electric kiln, called a bisque firing, after which the clay cannot be returned to a soft state. It is now safe to apply glazes, which are mostly water. If the work was not fired before glazing, the piece would absorb the glaze and melt back down into wet clay. This property means that clay can be 'recycled' endlessly, as long as it doesn't get fired. If a mug cracks while drying, or something drys out a bit too fast and didn't get trimmed in time, it can be put in a pail of water and will instantly begin turning back into soft clay.
The making process is just a small part of the whole game. Glazing can be a multi step process, with a liner glaze on the inside of mugs, and a flashing slip, glaze or several layers of glaze being applied to the outside of each piece.
Wadding each ware is the next step. Wadding is made up of high temperature clay and sand, rolled out into small balls that are glued to the bottom of every piece that goes into the wood kiln. This ensures that the pottery is kept elevated off of the kiln shelves so that it does not stick during the firing. Wood kilns can have warm spots and cool spots, and pots that are glazed a bit too liberally in a hot spot can mean that the glaze will run off of the piece. As well, the ash from the wood that is burnt during a wood firing lands on the pottery and melts to form a natural ash glaze. These glazes can become very fluid, and the wadding feet keep the ash glaze from fusing to the kiln shelf. The little feet crumble away after the firing, and if glaze does run down one of the feet, it can more easily be ground off. Every piece of pottery gets at least three wadding feet.
The firing itself takes about 30-36 hours of adding wood to the kiln. For the first 2/3 of the firing we are slowly heating up the large kiln along with the pottery inside. The last 12 hours of the firing we are holding at around 11-1,200 degrees Celsius, building up the natural ash glaze and letting the flame create a warm glow on the surface of each pot called flashing. The kiln then takes several days to cool before the pottery can be taken out. The wood firing process can be a lot of work, however, the work is worth the beautiful and unique results that emerge once the kiln is unloaded.
The firing is a relaxing event, where the repetitive stoking of the kiln creates a rhythm, with the sounds of the fire and the fresh air fueling the day. Working with a wood kiln is certainly a part of who we are!