Day 26: cooling off

“Every once in a while, you’ll succeed. Most of the time you’ll fail, and most of the time the circumstances will be well beyond your control.” – Aaron Sorkin

∞

The day after a firing is always weird, and it seems like I say so almost every time. No exception today. Waiting, waiting. Anxious to see it. Trying not to cool it off too fast.

Miss Lucille went off without a hitch, twelve and a half hours, three point five pounds of soda, both tens bending, barely half a cone apart. Not bad for a crossdraft that neither of us had fired before, my first pure soda firing since 1999, and with sketchy past logs to work with.

So, we wait. Sometimes the worst ones are the easiest, and vice versa, so the fact that it wasn’t more of a struggle makes me nervous. Heck, with 55 pots in the purgatory between started and finished, the wind blowing the wrong way or the sight of a deer running into the woods makes me nervous.

Vastly unlike my normal post-firing routine, however, today I had the fantastic distraction if a group trip to John Britt’s studio down the mountain. It was like two solid hours of a firehose to the brain; so much information and intrigue, it was hard to even file it away for future reference. I learned a lot from just a quick look around his kiln shed and the several small, unusual kilns there; proof that there are many options and ways to go about building such things. His glaze room is a thing of beauty. One entire wall was lined with small tubs of raw materials; every glaze ingredient I’ve ever heard of, and several I hadn’t. The space and organization dedicated to exploring glazes there was inspiring and impressive. I don’t think I’ve ever seen better.

I got to ask him a few questions, about the relative toxicity of an oxide-saturated matte black glaze from the P-land studio (Answer: probably not food safe; send it to a lab to get conclusive results). And about a fantastic cone 6 reduction test tile of a Teadust glaze; exactly what I’ve been wanting to get from mine for almost 15 years. (Answer: less talc and/or more flux.) And about which glaze calc software he uses. (Answer: surprise! More than one: Insight and HyperGlaze.) And about his choice to go all metal for his kiln shed, from massive structural I beams to metal struts for the entire roof. (Answer: wood will always have a lower ignition point years later; why risk it?) In each case, he was tremendously generous, completely open about sharing his vast experience and knowledge, and seemed enthusiastic about almost any topic — I could listen to him talk about ceramics for days on end.

I brought home a small Oil Spot yunomi, brown and black, a great varying glaze pattern where it changes around the fluid form, and a second copy of his high fire glazing book, my primary source and the assassin of my 20 years of xeroxed and hand-copied recipes, filling two massive binders and now almost completely useless by comparison. Now I can have a copy at the dining room table that doesn’t have chrome and feldspar dust on it.

Whew. That was just the morning. The days here in the mountains are jam packed and sensory overloaded, from the misty clouds over ice-shrouded pine trees to Maggie Bear helping me pack up pots to haul home and starting to clean up the mess that I’ve made these past few weeks. In some ways, it feels liked it’s been an entire season, or a miniature second life; in others it seems like I was just getting started, and it’s sad to have to pack up and start reconciling this fantasy journey with the reality of home. It will be good to go back, but hard to leave.

Home, I guess, is where the wheel is.

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