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history and wood firing gurus

updated sun 3 aug 03


John Baymore on sat 2 aug 03


I currently use ^6 stoneware and would like to continue with that. I have=

kiln book from a good friend (maid o' mud). It's the Olsen "The Kiln Book=
What should I be looking for in there and what do I need to know in terms=

costing this thing out and running it?
Any and all information people can direct me to with regards to historic
pottery making, wood kilns and brick and tile making would be MOST

I did consulting work on a period recreation of an updraft bottle kiln fo=
Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts many years ago....... like maybe =
or so. Sturbridge Village is a living history museum. Everyone who is
there when it is "open" to the public is in period costume, and in
character. It's a pretty large village. The bottle kiln is as close a
recreation to the actual units as we could come up with. Every thing is
handmade that went into it .... the metal supporting bands are hand made,=

the brick was custom ordered from a brickmaking firm to be made the way t=
bricks wee then and fired in a typical clamp, and so on. I remember duri=
the first firing of the bottle kiln that we decided we wanted a "fitting"=

for one of the stoke holes to change someting to make it work better.....=
but no running out to the hardware store........ had to get the villiage
smithy to make it on the quick while we waited. Sort of fun . Gave y=
a WHOLE new perspective about the "nostalgic" life of our potter
forebearers actual lives . Picture of the kiln at = in the lower right hand corner =
the page.

BTW.... it rained pretty heavily during the first firing .

You probably need to start by really talking to the director of the museu=
about their exact goals for this project. What exact time period are the=
"capturing" in their endeavor? How realistic do they want the recreation=

of the kiln and the wares you are making there? That will tell you alot
about where you should go with your ideas about pots, firing temperature,=

clay bodies, and the kiln itself. At Sturbridge they wanted a very
accurate and well documented presentation to the public. There were lots=

of very well educated "museum types" around and involved. The potters
there were making earthenware..... and the main concession to "modernity"=

was to NOT use lead in the basic clear glaze they were using . =

Otherwise they were trying to make accurate period and location specific
forms and surfaces. The big kiln was fired about once a year as a large
public "spectacle". (The rest of the time the recreation-type wares they=

sold in the gift shop were fired in electric kilns that were kept WELL
hidden away from the public eyes .) All of the houses in the village=

had clay wares produced right there and they were used for day to day

It is a pretty interesting place if you ever get a chance to visit. I
enjoyed the involvement I had with the project .... it was fun and a good=

learning experience . Unfortunately... I haven't been back there in YEAR=
Hope it is still the same. Enjoy the experience!

I do have to say that the project at Sturbridge took a LOT of "scholarly"=

book-type research to make it somewhat accurate and invloved MANY people.=

And a lot of learning over the first few firings . =



PS: Interestingly
, I recently found out that a current life long learning student in some =
my classes I teach at the NH Institute of Art used to work at a brickmaki=
operation many years ago. And he told me that he MADE the bricks for tha=
bottle kiln. Small world!

John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086-5812 USA

603-654-2752 (studio)
800-900-1110 (studio)

"Earth, Water, and Fire Noborigama Woodfiring Workshop: August 15-24,