Friday, 24 June 2011

Mazdagama 1999

At the ASP the annual celebration of Guy Fawkes has evolved into an annual chance to set fire to things, to build kilns that don’t make a lot of sense but usually provide a spectacle of sorts, even if it is just the designer looking very embarrassed.
Possibly it all started with the “Mazdagama” – it’s a while ago now and I can’t recall accurately the real history so this will have to do. The Director of the ASP at the time, Lee Le Grice, had had her car stolen from outside her house and it was eventually found, wrecked and burnt out, up a lonely road in the rural sector. What made this interesting (as well as upsetting of course) was that it had been packed with pots en route from an exhibition and these all perished in the fire; there is some irony there because they had all already survived much hotter temperatures but of course not as suddenly and unevenly. But it set me to thinking: what if we filled a car with biscuited pots and set fire to it …. would they survive and perhaps even show some signs of surface interest? And how good would it be to set fire to a car anyway? We’d been gifted an old Mazda for the ASP, abandoned by a potter leaving the country who asked us to “take care of it” so we did by painting in a fine brick pattern and filling it with pots, wood, sawdust, fireworks, chemicals and seaweed and setting it on fire in an isolated country vineyard belonging to Petra Molloy, one of our more relaxed students. The original plan had been for Chris Southern, one of our tutors, to sit in it at the top of the grassy slope while we set fire to it and then it would roll down to the bottom, at which point with split-second timing he would leap out in true movie style and it would then explode in flames. For some reason that plan was modified and we settled down and eventually lit it under the back hatch and allowed it to fire at its own pace. Surprisingly it took over an hour and a half to completely burn out (we had been advised to empty the petrol tank – probably by the same sensible people that stopped the “rolling down the hill” plan) but during the course of the firing there was the odd highlight, particularly when the windows exploded (the windscreen refused to do that even though it must have reached at least 800ºC, instead eventually melting over the steering wheel) and for the finale the tyres all blew out to happy applause from the crowd. It became clear as the fire died down that oxidation was a threat, by now the interior of car was open to the air, so we improvised by picking piles of grass and throwing it over the glowing pots, without much effect.
The next day we “opened the kiln” by simply opening the doors which still swung to an extent and the pots we got out were surprisingly good – the effects were not too different to a pit firing with areas of colour from the various stuff we’d thrown in plus the proximity to various parts of the car which had an effect as well. The piece in the glove box was probably the most successful, and those under the seat. The oxidation did not help some of them, but of course plans for the next one started right there, with schemes to help overcome some of these problems.
So the next year we scored an old Holden (better results) and the year after that a fine looking Mercedes (good quality results), and after that we became distracted by other options for unlikely kilns based on the premise that you can get over 1100º in almost any container from a filing cabinet to a treetrunk, a wooden box or a block of ice, and all of them will provide an entertaining spectacle and occasionally a fired pot. We have fired underwater and on a trailer moving down the road, in a sandcastle and stack of telephone books.
This year we’ll have a special kiln that will celebrate our 50th birthday on November 5th – you must be there to watch this one! 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Anagama Kiln

Preparing the kiln for firing

Yes, it's going!

Final shift of stoking.

Chain gang unloading, everyone gets a look.

The unloaded results of the anagama firing.

The Joy of Kilns

Again, I am just going to post these photos and see what stories come in.  I can update the blog as they arrive.  I am not so sure about changing the order of the photos though!


John Parker kiln building during a pre ASP centre day at Carrick Oliver's farm.   The Catenary Arch kiln was fired using dirty turps as a fuel, it was sieved through donated tights first.

Lex Dawson and the round wood kiln


The first salt kiln built at ASP, 1975 or 6

Kiln Building weekend at ASP

Lex Dawson

Completed kiln

John Parker helping with Joan Campbell Raku workshop 1980

1979 Building a salt kiln with Lex Dawson
Chester Nealie building a  roman arch salt kiln, buttressed and insulated with scoria, 1982

1984 Pit firing


The burri box kiln, used with salt.

2006 Diesel Kiln

Loading small salt kiln, 2009

Work around ASP

The old piano goes to the dump in preparation for the party, October 2011

Preparing for the laying of the new car park, 2006

Keeping the old building, kilns and grounds maintained is a lot of work and frequently ASP members have a working bee. 

Laying the courtyard, 2004

And with working bees go shared lunches, another feature of life at ASP over the years.

New kiln shed roof, 2005

New workbench, 2005

Barry Hockenhull fixing the roof, November 1995

Building the shelving inside the new workroom, 1994

Workroom at ASP 1994 during the Jeff Oestreich workshop.

Pam Robertson, Director and Molly Maxted, Secretary 1983 painting the kitchen.

1984 - spot the rabbit

1983 Maintenance