Clay & Fire Pottery
Grant Ruegnitz, potter
Throwing & Forming
Each piece of pottery starts as a chunk of raw clay. It must first be wedged (to remove any air pockets) and formed into a basic ball to be placed on the potter's wheel. Then the piece is created on the wheel using a combination of raising, stretching and compressing the clay. When the basic form is complete it is removed from the wheel and put into a special drying cabinet until it reaches a leather hard stage. Then it is placed back on the wheel upside down so that the foot of the piece can be trimmed. If the piece needs a handle or any other decorative additions or textures, it is done at this time. Finally when the piece is completely dry, it is loaded into an electic kiln to be bisque fired to approximately 1800 degrees.
Creating Woodfired Pottery
Glazing & Loading the Kiln
After pots are bisque fired, they are ready to be glazed. Often different glazes are used in combination to create different effects. Pots are dipped into buckets of glaze or glaze is poured over the surface to coat the pot. Then different tools or techniques are used to add additional glazes which combine to create the final piece. After glazing, the pots are ready to be loaded into the wood kiln. Fire bricks and kiln shelves made of silicon carbite are used to stack the pots inside of the kiln. Each pot needs to sit on top of 3-6 small bits of wad which prevent the pots from sticking to the shelves during the firing. This wood kiln can hold 30-35 shelves full of pots. The location of each pot within the kiln is specially chosen depending on the type of glaze used and the desired outcome for the pot. Some areas of the kiln receive more ash and direct flame while others are more protected from these elements.
Firing & Unloading the Kiln
In preparation for the firing of the kiln, many hours are spent harvesting dead wood from the forest and sawing and splitting it. During the actual 15 hour firing process, wood is added to the kiln every 2-5 minutes. The firing begins by adding small pieces of wood to the firebox and progresses to larger pieces of wood being added to the fire through the main door of the kiln. Cones to measure temperature are strategically placed throughout the kiln so they can be looked at to help judge the temperature of the kiln in different locations. An electirc pyrometer is also used to help determine the temperature of the kiln which must reach over 2300 degrees. After the firing, the kiln needs to cool down for three days before the brick door can be taken down and the pots removed.