I’ve just received a copy of the April 2011 issue of Glass on Metal magazine which has published an article by Dave Berfield. ‘Killer Kiln’ is Dave’s account of the genisis and execution of the idea of building a wood fired enameling kiln. Congratulations, Dave! Great article, and especially great chapter headings!
For some time I’ve wanted to post pictures and tell about a Washington State Enamelists’ workshop/retreat last October. The workshop was at the Grunewald Guild in Plain, Washington, and was led by Jean Tudor, Dave Berfield, and Mary Stafford. They planned a small and informal event that packed a lot in.
Jean taught raku-fired enameling (she is world-famous for this), and Mary taught a session on cold connections (some neat stuff came out of this class). Dave shared information about liquid enamels and built a wood fired kiln to fire enamels in.
(Click on all pictures to enlarge.)
Jean’s impressive raku experience was on display and she shared her knowledge of raku enameling with us. I admit that I was a bit overwhelmed as I’d had no previous exposure to the raku process. But being overwhelmed can be a refreshing experience, and this was certainly that. We used pine needles, leaves, wet newspaper, and moss (a chartreuse local variety found on the ground around us) for the process, either on its own, or after firing in the wood fired kiln.
Dave is an expert in liquid/porcelain enamels on steel (LARGE enamel pieces – like architectural installations). I found a picture of his enameling shop here.
Lately Dave’s passion has been his ceramics, and at the time of our weekend workshop Dave had been studying about wood-fired kilns; he was planning on building one for ceramics at his home on Bainbridge Island.
For this weekend he teamed with Scott Dillman (Grunewald’s resident potter), to design and build (on the spot) a small kiln that we fired enamels in.
The kiln was definitely inspired. On Friday afternoon, a couple of us picked up each fire brick by hand from Grunewald’s pottery studio, loaded them into a small pickup, and drove down the road a few hundred yards to the workshop classrooms. Dave and Scott talked about how they thought the kiln should be designed.
As you can see from the pictures, it was pretty cool (in my opinion!). They had it completed by mid-day Saturday. It had a pyrometer laid in on one side, but over the time we used the kiln Scott decided that the right firing temperature (about 1500 degrees F) was best indicated by a very full, red flame coming out of the kiln’s chimney. Those were impressive visuals.
The door to the kiln was three bricks. We picked them, up as a group, to check a piece’s progress, check the kiln temperature, and attempt to swiftly get a piece in and out. My favorite picture is Jean Tudor pulling her enamel piece out of the kiln.
We had a bit of RAIN over the weekend (despite being in Eastern Washington), so we also got to experience what rain drops can do to enamels JUST out of the kiln. (Hint – rain drops leave permanent spots on hot enamel.) We also got to experience enameling in the rain. I’m sure that’s also a pretty unique experience.
In the evenings, we got to talk and share work we had done, either during the weekend or things we had brought. We were all immensely impressed with Jean’s latest piece. She now has pictures of it posted on her web site – check it out! The pictures hardly do it justice. “Bestiary”is a collection of small panels –but large when you consider what went into each piece! They are joined together to form a “manuscript” that features “animals we may never see again” that are on the endangered species list. 30 panels, about 5 x 5 inches each, enameled on both sides, cloisonné. Truly amazing. I was sorry we didn’t get to spend more time with it.
We had a great weekend, and thanks go out to Jean, Mary, Dave, Scott, all the folks at Grunewald, and all my fellow participants. We had fun!