Day 10: Elements of Clay Workshop (Day 6)

Greetings Family and Friends:

Cecilia’s Birthday!:

Cecilia has been giddy all day.  She has been blaming everything on her age and relishing the notion of us singing “When I’m Sixty-four” by the Beatles.  Now, although there is a special place in my heart for Cecilia and the Beatles, there is no way I’m gonna sing a capella with Kim, trashing a classic.  My singing voice has been known to send feral animals into a frenzy.  However, she is having a wonderful day and many friends we have made here at the Poeh Center have come by for best wishes and blessings for her.  We love you Cecilia.  Happy Birthday!

The Firing Process:

We arrived at the Poeh Center earlier than usual.  We agreed on 8 am because there has been rain most of the week which usually starts around lunchtime and we wanted to be done if it came.   Clarence had already started chopping wood and lit a small fire before we arrived.  We used cedar wood and used about 1/4 of a chord of wood.  Compared to wood-firings I have been involved with, this amount was a fraction of what I was expecting.  A wood-firing can use anywhere from 1-4 chords of wood, given the size of kiln. The bottom line: It made me feel good that we were using very little wood–efficient and such. 

So we chopped wood and built a small square-shaped fire about 2 x 2 ft.  Since we were doing both oxidation and reduction firings, we made two similar fires.  The beginning stages involved building up a coal bed which also served as a pre-heater to the pots.  The pots were set about 6 inches away from the coals and were rotated 1/4 turn every 15 min to even out the “warming” stage.  Once the coal bed was built up and the pots had warmed for about an hour, the next stage began.

A large heavy metal box was placed over the coal bed on 4″ galvanized pipe sections.  These legs prevented the box from touching the coals.  The pots that were warming were placed in the box gently and the lid was put on leaving a 3-4 inch gap.  The gap is necessary because as we learned you don’t want the heat to build up too fast.  You are after gradual heat increases.  Slow and steady win the race.  Wood is continually added to increase heat.  The gap is closed after about 30 mins.  Wood is added and heat is built up for another 30-40 min and the next stage begins.

At this point we let the majority of the wood burn down to coals and add the final pieces of wood that would eventually engulf the metal box in flames and heat.  Clarence placed wood on the lid.  Then, we each placed the wood around the sides of the box at an angle making sure to leave no gaps between the wood sections. (It somewhat resembled a wooden fort) With the wood both leaning on the metal box and beneath the hot coals, within a minute, the entire structure was ablaze and gave off tremendous heat.  I was standing about 15 feet away and it was burning my clothes.

With regard to the reduction firing. At a certain point after the pots were loaded and heating up pretty good, 40 mins or so, Clarence and I poured sawdust in the metal box, around the pots and replaced the lid.  After about 30 min, the final stage was done.  The sawdust produces a bed of carbon around the pots, reducing the atmosphere, and eventually turning the pots black.

The firing was intense.  There were quick intervals of concentration and the heat from the fire made it even more dangerous.  We remained safe though and Clarence gave us thorough instruction on the proper techniques of firing in this manner.  The scariest parts were when I had too remove my glasses in order to do something.  I can’t see that well without them and the notion of being over sizzling white hot coals was a little unsettling, but I survived and our pots look beautiful.

Los Mayas Restaurant:

I was still recovering from slight burns to my face and neck. Kim was starting to nod off from the days activities.  Cecilia wanted to go out to eat and celebrate.  I rallied myself out of my state.  We all took showers and washed off the “fire-camp” smell and went out to eat.  Cecilia chose Los Mayas Restaurant.  She researched it and we scored big.  Homemade guacamole fresco which they make table side.  I couldn’t help myself.  I love cooking shows and anything having to do with process and so I had to film the guacamole being made.  (See the video)  The restaurant heard of Cecilia’s special day and made a special little plate of flan with a b-day candle and delivered it singing Happy Birthday.  Cecilia was so surprised.  Glorious! 

Video of the Day:

Watch Video Here:  Watch the entire firing process, lunch being cooked over the coals we fired our pots with, and finally the firing results.

Watch Bonus Video Here: Watch as Guacamole Fresco is prepared table side at Los Mayas Restaurant. Santa Fe, NM.

Pictures of the Day:

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