Loughborough University staff and students prepare for kiln marathon

Staff and students from Loughborough University are making the final preparations for the firing of a distinctive kiln that will involve six days of work.

The University’s School of the Arts is home to an Anagama kiln which is fired using wood creating unique surface qualities on ceramic products.  The kiln is one of very few in the UK and the only one in the higher education sector.

Anagama kilns originate from the Far East and were often tucked into hillside locations.  The Loughborough kiln is in a quiet corner of the University campus.  It was designed and constructed by Ben Brierley, Technical Tutor of ceramics. 

Over a period of two days last week Ben and his team of helpers stacked the kiln with ceramics.  Ben’s own work will be fired along with that of a range of students studying courses in Fine Art, Ceramics and 3D New Practice. 

Since the last firing of the kiln in January 2013 Ben has been collecting both hard and soft woods from a variety of suppliers to prepare for the firing and in total around 4 tonnes of wood will be used.  This is all scrap wood – waste from agricultural fence makers and natural tree falls.  The whole firing is carried out using fuel from sustainable resources.

The actual firing will take place over four days this week (13 to 16 February).  The fire will be lit and wood fed into the kiln to increase the temperature to 1400 degrees centigrade. There is no wall separating the fire from the work and through the duration of the firing the ash from the fire lands on the pots and melts to form a natural glaze

A team led by Ben will work 24 hours a day to continually to keep the kiln stoked with wood to ensure temperatures are maintained.  Ben himself will be on site for the full duration of the firing to ensure that the kiln works effectively by monitoring the temperature, the amount of wood fuel used and regulating the amount of air drawn into the kiln.  Once the firing has been completed it will take approximately a week to cool sufficiently to allow the ceramic products to be removed.

Ben comments: “We only fire this kiln once a year because it is such a labour intensive process to prepare the products, collect enough wood for the firing and ensure we have enough help to keep the kiln going for a suitable duration.  The effort is however really worthwhile and there is no doubt that the finish on the products is unique.”

Further technical information about the construction and operation of the Loughborough University kiln is available by visiting www.Ben-Brierley-Woodfired-Ceramics.co.uk.

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