By 1 a.m. Sunday, conditions are still difficult—only a faint orange glow comes from the chimney, indicating the flames are several hours behind schedule. At 9:15 a.m., the morning crew reports that the “fire box looks a little cold.” Bad news. But by 4 p.m., there’s progress: Willett says the cones in the back of the kiln are melting on schedule. |
On this last day, the weather cooperates, raising the crews’ spirits, and enabling the temperature inside the kiln to be raised more steadily. By late afternoon the chimney displays a bright orange flame and the air is filled with black smoke. After eight hours of kiln duty, Louise Kearns, a student in the Atmospheric Firing class, is upbeat as the sun sets in the distance. She is happy to have contributed to what is now shaping up as a successful firing. “We were two people short this morning and I probably lost a few eyelashes, but things finally seem to be going pretty well,” she says.
When the desired temperatures are reached, the stoking stops and the kiln’s front holes are plugged with bricks. By 1 a.m. Monday, the last crew finishes and the kiln is left to cool for a couple days.
Once cooling is complete, the participants return to learn the fate of the kiln’s contents. The way pieces are stacked has a considerable impact on how much ash glaze adheres to their surfaces. Several pieces in the back have fallen and broken because they weren’t supported with wadding compound. “There are always a few casualties,” Willett admits.
Ultimately, the many studio hours coupled with the 72 hours spent nurturing the flames of the anagama render some striking results. Willett pronounces this firing the most successful he has seen in terms of the glaze it produced, and the participants revel in their achievements. “It’s kind of like Christmas,” declares Andrea Marquis ’00 as she collects several bowls and other pieces she fired in the kiln. The gentle green and burnt orange glazing from the ash further enhances what she considers some of the best pieces she has sculpted during her SU career. “I was happy with every piece I put in,” she says. “You really can’t beat those results.”
As the kiln is carefully unloaded, members of the group share in one another’s accomplishments. “If somebody ends up with a beautiful vessel, everyone appreciates it,” Willett says. “Each person has contributed to that piece. That’s what makes a firing a success.”
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