I have always been interested in the idea of efficiency and lessening my use of fossil fuels in my everyday life. This idea has carried over to my studio production and I challenged myself to make my firing process as efficient as possible. I’ve explored the possibility of simply changing the fuel source from gas to something more renewable such as electricity, wood or waste vegetable oil. Electricity is relatively cheap except that in the region where I live the majority of electricity is produced by burning coal which is not clean or renewable. Additionally, the use of electricity in the firing process changes the finished surface more than I wanted.
Wood is also an option but I live in an urban where the gathering of quality hardwood, not mention the smoke would be a problem. Waste vegetable oil, or WVO, is an option that has intrigued me so much that in 2005 I converted an old Mercedes 240D to run on spent fryer grease allowing me to drive for about 5 years without paying for fuel. However one of the issues with using WVO is that it has a much lower combustion point which would necessitate me to retrofit, build or design new burners for my kiln. A formidable task that is better left for a future project.
The other half of the equation is to work on lowering the firing temperature I need to finish my work, thus, reducing my overall use of fuel and making my current propane gas usage as efficient as possible. As a tested fact, my kiln consumes as much fuel to raise the temperature from 78 F to cone 6 (2250 F) as it does to climb an additional 100 F from cone 6 (2250 F) to reach my previous terminating firing temperature of cone 10 (2350 F). Although an extra 100 degrees doesn’t sound like much, in the ceramics world it’s huge as many of the raw materials we rely on to make the clays and glazes need this higher firing temperature to achieve the desired melt. Knowing that the bulk of my fuel consumption was occurring between cone 6 and cone 10, I decided to begin developing clays and glazes to bring my firing temperature down while achieving a similar aesthetic.
I have always liked the traditional cone 10 surfaces, the shinos, celadons and ash glazes. These very traditional glazes and surfaces come from long, hot firings. In the case of some of the traditional Japanese glazes, the shinos for instance, the big kilns can fire for up to a week or even more. The beauty and subtlety in these glazes come from the very firing process the pots undergo. No tall order. So the researching and testing began. This new body of work is the culmination of these years of glaze testing and firing.