If you’re like me the word no is a magnet that draws its counterpart yes. All my kilns are named Julia but it wasn’t until I started soda firing that I named them. So let me tell you about the first Julia.
Soda firing for me was a natural destination. As I delved deeper into the world of clay and ceramics through books and the university of YouTube, I discovered atmospheric firing. I fell instantly for the surfaces that reminded me of rock formations and water and earth. I wanted to do that!
The trouble was I had no one in Trinidad and Tobago I could turn to for direction. All the clay enthusiasts at home fired in oxidation at earthenware temperatures. What was I going to do?
That ‘no’ made me even more determined to fire in reduction (starve the kiln of oxygen so that the flames take the oxygen from the clay) with wood. While I waited for the opportunity I researched and watched other ceramicists who were wood or gas firers. i inhaled every piece of information I could find that would tell me how I could move from an electric kiln to one that fired in reduction that I could put wood into.
Enter Salt and Soda
In doing so I discovered salt and soda firing. The orange peel surface caught my attention and pulled me away from the idea of wood firing.
Again I went on the hunt to learn all I could from books ( I love to read) and video and also from Facebook and Instagram where I followed a host of atmospheric firers. Before IG became a thing there was Periscope. We had a wonderful community of potters from around the world. There we hosted live broadcasts at all hours and fed off each others clay energies. There I met Neil Celani from Colorado who was heavily involved in soda firing and achieved some beautiful surfaces.
Virginia, a former lecturer, was selling one of her kilns. It was a big old top loading tub of a kiln; which would become the first Julia. This was my opportunity. I discussed with Arnold and we agreed to make the purchase.
My brothers pickup and manpower helped us get her home. From then the work started with me trying to figure out how to convert this old electric into a gas kiln. The ‘to do’ list ranged from figure out firebox, figure out chimney situation, identify places selling firebricks, source burners, get gas supply… This was Mount Hololo (One of the high hills in Northern Trinidad) and I was down at the bottom looking up.
Julia is Born
That didn’t stop me though. I pressed on, learning as I went. I even started documenting the process on my YouTube channel. It took a few weeks but Julia flared up and had her first firing. it was a disaster! The gas supply- two barbecue tanks, was not enough to get this big kiln up to temperature (facepalm) I was feverishly shoving bits of kindle in to help it along….
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO!