21 January 2010

Woodfired pottery and sculptural vessels

These are some of the pots that came out of the latest wood firing in the Manabigama at the University of North Dakota. I was excited to see the results as we chose to do a few things differently this firing, single firing most of the work but also changing how tightly the kiln was packed.

Previously we had used shelves from through the whole kiln, squeezing larger pieces into the front or between the stacks of shelves. This time we left the whole front half of the kiln free to fill with larger pieces, with the obvious result of better ash distribution.

For those that don't know anything about the Manabigama, designed and built by John Theis and Bill Van Guilder, it has an incredible amount of draw and can hit cone 13 really fast (in as few as eight hours). Having fired it a number of times with a hard cone 13 in front and as low as a cone 8 in the back, we started looking at ways to keep an even temperature throughout the firing but also slow the firing down to develop more ash.

To achieve this, we put four bricks into the exit flues and opened only four to eight of the primary air holes throughout the various stages of firing... relatively few considering the twenty that are able to be opened up. The firing ended up being sixteen hours (with a four hour preheat) and fired up to temperature nearly evenly the whole time, reaching between a cone 10 to cone 11. We are finally starting to utilize all the variables of the kiln and it is a real pleasure to fire as a student, especially as I see these kilns popping up all over the country.


Paul Fricker said...

Interesting to hear you comments about firing the Manabigama. I'm just planning to build one here in England - the first one here as far as I know.

Any comments or advice about it? You managed to get a nice even heat throughout this time - good to know that can be done.

Where did the pieces in the photos above go in the kiln - front or back?

- Paul

Michael Arnold said...


It is a great kiln because it is easy for two people to fill and fire quickly. That said, the number of variables (as with any kiln) can be daunting.

Firing the kiln off of the schedule provided by John and Bill, one tends to see a very hot front and a cool back.

I will post some post-fire pictures of the inside of the kiln and details about different schedules and variations we have tried in the next couple of days.

The white vessel was on the shelves near the back of the kiln, directly behind a large piece which kept it from being ashed too heavily, but the other two pieces were near the front of the kiln.

Corbin Webster said...

the second vase looks amazing the texture accent the form very well are you selling any of your pots online at all
Paul, you can also find more information through ceramics daily they have a PDF you can download that talks about the manabigama

Michael Arnold said...


Thanks for the comments. I am not currently selling my work online. I do have an Etsy account but because I am working on my B.F.A. show and applying to graduate schools, I haven't had the time to make work to sell.

Ideally I will have a website six months from now where the work will be available.