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wood fired

Cowgirls in Park City

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Main Street Park City just before Christmas 2013

Main Street Park City just before Christmas 2013

COWGIRLS IN PARK CITY, UTAH

With portfolio in hand on a ski trip to visit my dear friend Julia I made my first cold calls to galleries on the main drag of downtown Park City, Utah. While most galleries in the area are packed full for the holidays and the busy ski season, a friendly connection got me in touch with Gallery MAR.

Ready to be crated and shipped, seven of the wood fired clay cowgirls are on their way to Gallery MAR in downtown Park City, Utah.

The Tres Piedras Wood Fire Kilns outside of Taos, New Mexico just before sunrise.

The Tres Piedras Wood Fire Kilns outside of Taos, New Mexico just before sunrise.

WOOD FIRING PROCESS

The Gallery requested a description of the process and the most interesting part is the Wood firing. Here’s the write up I sent along with the sculptures.

WHAT IS WOOD FIRING?

The wood fired cowgirls are individually hand built from high-fire clays then given 1-2 weeks to dry before the first firing. The clay must be completely dry to ensure that no moisture retained within reaches boiling point as the kilns climb to 1800 degrees in the first firing. Any moisture would cause a blow out in the structure damaging not only the original piece but the pieces around it as well.

A look inside the stoke opening for the fire shows two seated cowgirls waiting for the temp to rise.

A look inside the stoke opening for the fire shows two seated cowgirls waiting for the temp to rise.

Each cowgirl is first bisque fired; a lower temperature pre-firing where the clay goes through a chemical transformation making it less fragile for transportation and also preparing it to receive glaze. In the case of these cowgirls no glaze has been added to augment the surfaces. The finish is a result of the natural deposits of wood ash built up and melting during the course of the wood firing creating a natural and unpredictable surface.

The team takes shifts stoking every few minutes 24hrs/day for several days before reaching temp.

The team takes shifts stoking every few minutes 24hrs/day for several days before reaching temp.

The bisque sculptures are loaded into the Anagama, a Japanese-style wood fire kiln, and slowly brought up to temperature over the course of several days. The artists take shifts stoking the kiln with up to 14 cords of wood 24hrs/day until ideal temperature, approximately 2300 degrees, is met. In this time the ash that moves through the kiln builds up on the sculptures and begins to melt resulting in the final surface of the finished sculptures.

Just out of the kiln

Once temperature is met all openings are sealed and the kiln is allowed to cool for 1-2 weeks before taking down the brick door and unloading the finished wares.