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Geil/Coleman Workshop - Jan, 2012

I attended a workshop at the office of Geil Kilns in Huntington Beach, CA, on the weekend of January 28-30, 2012. The weekend was fun, informative and sometimes even exciting.

On Saturday morning we gathered and met the other participants. We had people from British Columbia, Canada, and as far away as Detroit, Michigan. Many were teachers who came to learn more about firing their Geil kiln. Some were like me, retired or soon-to-be retired. One was a local young man, Zac Hould.

We all brought some bisque ware to be glazed and fired during the workshop. Tom Coleman demonstrated the use of a spray gun to glaze pots. I had tried it on my own before but thought it was too much extra work. Now I have a better idea of how to use a spray gun. It is really the only method to use when you have a large pot to glaze.

Tom also introduced us to shino glazes with added decorations like "crocus martus", a very fine form of iron. It can add shiny rust-red high-lights to a shino-glazed pot. Peanut shells on a shino-glazed pot can also introduce interesting designs.

After we all glazed our pots Paul Geil demonstrated how to properly load the kiln. This was a big revelation to me. I had been loading the kiln with two stacks of shelves running side-by-side lengthwise into the kiln. (You can see some pictures of previous firings in previous blog entries.) The better way is to turn those 2 shelf stacks by 90 degrees so the shelves run side to side instead of front to back. Then you can place pots in front of the flew hole to partially block it. That causes the hot air to work its way around the pots before going up the chimney - it can not head straight for the flew opening without warming any pots. This new stacking method should solve some of my heating problems. Paul and Tom also stressed that the kiln should be as full as possible.

After the kiln was loaded Paul showed how to start a glaze firing. The Geil kilns come with a controller that allows you to set a target temperature and a time interval. The controller will then adjust the gas gas flow to raise the temperature to the desired level within the specified time. (I simplify the controller here. You can actually set multiple times and targets.) Paul set the controller to heat the kiln to 1700 degrees over night, about 15 hours. We could then all leave for the night and come back the next day with the kiln primed to finish the cone 10 firing. No one needs to watch it and make adjustments during the night.

The next day, Sunday, we finished the firing. Paul demonstrated how to finish a cone 10 reduction firing manually - by-passing the controller. This was also a revelation for me. I had previously relied on the controller for the entire firing. Paul demonstrated how to test for proper reduction. After making the initial damper and gas flow adjustments there were surprisingly few changes made during the remainder of the firing.

Paul noted the temperature about every half hour and started checking the cones (top and bottom) when the temperature reached about 2000 degrees. He also tested the back-pressure (flames coming from the peep-holes) from time to time and adjusted the damper a little (one-eighth inch adjustments) from time to time. The damper started at 2 and one-eighth inches and ended at 2 and one-half inches -- very small changes. When I allowed the controller to control the firing, it moved the damper a LOT. I plan to over-ride the controller on my next firing.

The firing was complete by 1 PM on Sunday. We just had to wait til the next morning to see the results.

While we were watching the kiln get hot and then cool down, Tom Coleman demonstrated some throwing and decorating techniques. I enjoy watching master potters do their thing. Here are a few of the pots he produced:

Some Tom Coleman pottery

Tom's technique is quite different from Claudio's but both achieve wonderful results. (See previous blog entries concerning Claudio Reginato, the Italian master potter.)

open kiln

The exciting moment was Monday morning, the opening of the kiln. I was quite pleased with some of my pieces. I'll share them in the next blog entry.

2012-02-10 16:19:44 GMT Comments (1 total)
Author: Patricia Goodell 2012-02-10 21:02:40 GMT
I also learned a lot from this workshop and would highly recommend attending for anyone who is unsure or timid about firing their Geil kiln. Both the spraying lesson and watching Tom Colman throw were nice bonuses. All the people I met were great, and Paul Geil is a gracious host. I understand they do this workshop once a year. Check kilns.com for more info. I'm glad you had a good time, Roy. It was so very nice to meet you and the rest of our group.

Patty from Detroit
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.