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Photo / Michael Cunningham

A group of Northland potters kept up a burning interest in the contents of a kiln called K-2 for days.

Yesterday, after the fire had been stoked for nearly three days, the fire bricks at the opening of the Quarry Art Centre's kiln were removed to reveal a successful firing of ceramics made by more than 20 individuals.

Inside the single chamber, wood-fired kiln's big belly was a huge variation of ceramic ware — cups, bowls, plates, vases, grandchildren's work and large-scale artwork by renowned Northland sculptors.

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All fired up and fabulous, the contents of the Quarry Arts Centre's kiln ready for unpacking.
All fired up and fabulous, the contents of the Quarry Arts Centre's kiln ready for unpacking.

It had taken two days just to stack the items in the kiln which was built two years ago on the site of a former cantankerous old burner.

The kiln then ate through a massive pile of wood — at least two truckloads — as it slowly heated up to well above1300C.

Kiln master Dave Huffman said he was ''pretty exhausted'' after being on-site from 6am one day until 2am the next making sure the heat was kept on. Huffman said a successful firing always depended on more than temperature and correct loading; it was as much about the atmosphere in the kiln as the heat generated in the fire box.

''We're here to learn from our mistakes,'' he said as the last bricks were removed from the mouth of the kiln.

Kiln master Dave Huffman checks inside before giving the okay for it to be unpacked.
Kiln master Dave Huffman checks inside before giving the okay for it to be unpacked.

There were relieved smiles when the contents, about 100 items, had cooled enough to be carefully unstacked and removed. Few pieces had cracked or shattered.

Throughout the unloading process people came and went, watching their own or friends' ceramic works to come out into the light of day or simply taking an interest in the second community firing in K-2 this year.

About twice a year, for a small fee per volume, the Quarry makes the kiln available to potters who work at home or in groups but have no kiln of their own.

Large pot maker and enthusiastic supporter of community pottery firings, Susie Rogers had also been at K-2's side through many small hours. She and Desi Hirner helped with a workshop for interested community potters before the firing, and were assistants to Huffman's kiln master role.

Experience and intuition played a big part in the success of any woodfiring, especially when the kiln's thermometer was a little unreliable, Rogers said.

''Every firing's going to be a challenge. We were guessing by our cones that we'd reached the maximum heat, then we kept it at that heat for about two hours.''

Ceramic cones inside the kiln collapse or change colour when the heat reaches a certain temperature.