Thursday, August 16, 2007

Super Hot Kiln Firing

The groundhog kiln was fired on the weekend of August 10, 11 and 12th and was it ever HOT! What is usually a very hot job no matter what time of year was almost unbearable due to the ongoing heatwave over much of the southern USA. Records are being shattered every day and we just passed 8 or so days in a row above 100f degrees. Friday, when the kiln was started, the temperature reached 107 followed by 105 on Saturday! At least I know I'll never experience a hotter firing and won't ever whine about temps in the 90's again.
My deepest thanks go out to Brian for his help throughout Saturday night at the peak of heat! He also supplied a large fan which kept us from visiting the ER or morgue while chunking wood into the flaming inferno called the firebox. We reached cone 11 fairly early compared to other firings. Of course we had the traditional visit from our friends at the fire department early Sunday morning. They were all bright-eyed and full of breakfast.

The kiln was opened on Wednesday and we went in for a quick look at managed to get some pieces out even though I melted the soles on my new shoes. The glaze looked great, although the glaze ran a bit on some pieces and will require some grinding on the bottoms where the glaze stuck to sand or brick.

I hauled a number of loads of pots back to the shop and will post some pics soon. Sony sent my beloved camera back after they replaced the faulty components, YEAAA! I'm back in the saddle with photos. I'd also like to welcome new intern Katie who will learn about Edgefield pottery as she works around the shop and learns the various aspects of making this unique style of stoneware pottery.

Another load of pots is almost ready, but will await cooler temperatures before loading the kiln.

I managed to locate the graves of a couple of important potters from this area, Willie Hahn and his son, Thomas Hahn. William operated a pottery in Trenton before moving to North Augusta, SC in the late 1800's where he was also associated with the Baynham pottery. They were a large part of the scene in the final years of the Old Edgefield pottery tradition. Tommy went on to become an attorney in Augusta, GA. What can I say, mud was in his blood!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Is it Old Edgefield or Just Modern Pottery?

Lately, it seems, I am having this discussion over and over with more and more people. It involves what exactly constitutes "Old Edgefield Pottery" or "Old Edgefield-style pottery". To start with, this refers to wood-fired, alkaline or ash glazed type of pottery made in the 19th and early 20th Centuries in what was known as the Old Edgefield District. This district is no more since it was divided into the modern day counties of Aiken and Edgefield. We all agree that the 20 or so old potteries located in the old district qualify as having had made Old Edgefield Pottery.

Now, let's get down to matters of present day. I was born and live in this same area of South Carolina in discussion. I produce wood-fired, ash-glazed pottery from the native clays of this area. It is very difficult to make pottery in this manner. I fire a groundhog kiln at my house and one at my studio in Augusta, GA. I describe my work as Edgefield-style, not Old Edgefield.

I see a lot of modern pottery for sale on ebay, in galleries, etc., describing it to be "authentic" Old Edgefield pottery or Old Edgefield-style pottery. Yet, it was fired in an electric or gas kiln, made with commercially bought, blended clays and may have been made in Montana. How is that even close to what the true old pottery is? It's NOT! The truth is, Old Edgefield pottery gains in popularity by the day. Each new auction of old pottery tops the previous auction. There are many out there who are capitalizing on this and misleading the public as well as their customers.

As I stated, it is hard work to produce pottery in the old manner. Often, the better part of a kiln load of pottery is lost or damaged due to events beyond control. The tasks of keeping good wood in supply and dealing with digging and processing the clay are endless, not to mention the hours spent making pots and glazing them. It can take the better part of a day just to load a groundhog kiln and up to 40 hours to fire it! There are excellent potters in my area who make good pots, but they don't have anything in common with the Old Edgefield pottery produced here or authentic reproductions of it. They have few failures in their electric kiln and really churn the pots out. And, for reasons I've yet to understand, charge outrageous prices for their work.

An Edgefield-style piece I made. This look cannot be duplicated in modern electric or gas kilns.

So, after my long rant, I propose a new title to apply to this modern work produced by modern methods, Edgefield-inspired pottery. Let's all work to honor the most significant pottery to ever be produced in the USA by not mudding the water and purposefully misleading the public. Let's use appropriate terms and descriptions when advertising our pots.