Over the last week I was involved in firing the late Michael McCullough’s kiln as part of a testament to his life. The five-person team for this firing were all friends of Michael and our main objective was to create ten memorial pieces with Michael’s cremated ashed fused to the glaze surface. It was also an opportunity to fill the kiln and fire it with a large variety of work. Last year Michael introduced me to the aesthetic of woodfiring and gifted me with the opportunity to join his firing team. Now, with him gone, I’m grateful for the lasting influence he had on my opportunities, connections, and interests.
Woodfiring is for the purist. It is the oldest and best established tradition in high fired ceramics. Once, wood was effectively the only fuel to use to reach temperatures of 2400 degrees Fahrenheit in a kiln. It was in a wood kiln that the possibilities of glazing were first discovered, then manipulated and perfected. Though today wood is certainly not the most efficient or cost-effective fuel for firing pottery, the tradition remains alive and well thanks to a substantial number of impractical artists. The true beauty of a woodfiring is simply that ash from the burning fuel rakes across the ceramics objects in the kiln at temperatures hot enough to melt the silica it bears, which thus becomes glass and fuses to the available ceramic surfaces, creating glaze. Pieces embody a sense of spontaneity which can only be nudged and guided by the experienced potter. The gradients and subtle variations of surface are as natural as can be and the work intensive firing is more satisfying than any other ceramic process I’ve experienced. Here are my results. Enjoy.