While my installation is up at Rønne Library on Bornholm, as part of European Ceramic Context 2014, I have a month to kill. So I decided long ago that, given it is more expensive to make the long journey involving 3 ferries and many miles back to the UK and then back again to take the work down, I might as well stay here. So I making the most of being in Denmark by going back to do another soda wood firing at Guldagergård International Ceramic Research Centre, where I made all the pieces that are on exhibition in Bornholm, during a residency this spring. This is because I cannot easily do a soda wood firing at home, compared to firing in my electric kilns at my studio in Brighton. Of course I do not need to come all the way to Denmark to do a soda wood firing, there must be plenty of ceramists in the UK working in this way, but the glazes I used are at Guldagergård and this body of work has been conceived and made entirely in Denmark. I am simply making more pieces so I have a bigger stock of these designs, and I have a private commission coming up for a conservatory in the UK for which I will use some of these pieces.
So this time I took the ferry to Sweden from Bornholm and crossed the bridge over to Denmark and spent 6 days at Guldagergård, glazing hundreds of pieces of bisque fired ceramic and splitting hundreds of logs in preparation.
The firing itself took 32 hours. We started the fire at 6pm on Sunday and sealed the kiln up at 2am Tuesday morning. Eglé Pakšyte is the kiln yard technician, and her advice and help was invaluable all the way though. I employed an assistant who is currently working at Guldagergård, Lucie Brisson, who specializes in wood firing, to help me, and Japanese artist Mayu Ueda also helped, as she put some pieces into the kiln. Firing a soda kiln is not a one-person job! It is also very expensive. This firing cost me around £400 – quite an astonishing amount compared to the amount an electric firing (or equivalent number of firings, as it is a huge kiln!) that I do back home.
I used 50 litres of porcelain slip to make the pieces in Brighton and bisque fired them ready for this soda firing. I didn’t know how much would fit in the kiln, and when I arrived at Guldagergård, when I unpacked it all, I was so convinced I had made far too much that I only glazed about two thirds of it. But then I thought I must glaze the rest, ready, in case they could fit and in the end only 4 pieces did not go in! Amazing!
The firing itself was exhausting, exhilarating and hot (of course!), with moments of beauty, emotion and despondency – the latter after so many hours of hard physical work and so little (=null) sleep!
I cannot see the results for another week, as I am now in Copenhagen, soon to leave for Sweden on my way back to Bornholm. I hear they are beautiful! Can’t wait!