First stone slabs are prepared with sand spread thinly across the base. The pieces will be stacked on these slabs and the sand is to protect the kiln in case the glazes run or melt past the base of each piece. Since the tamayaki gets to 1200C the glazes tend to run more than if they were in an electric kiln. Where to draw the line of your glaze is usually trial and error, if you play it safe sometimes the result is a piece that isn't glazed to the base, if you take your chances the glaze could run over and then have to be chiseled off the stone slab, which could break your piece. Arai Sensei has a 3 finger rule. Leave 3 fingers of space from the base of your piece, 2 fingers for the electric kiln.
After the slabs are prepared they are then passed to Arai Sensei inside the kiln, where he carefully stacks them with pieces on top. Clay stackers, as I like to call them, make space between the stone slabs and allow the maximum amount of space to be used inside the kiln. It is very delicate and time consuming work, but once the pieces are stacked they are stable and won't fall down.
Inside the Tamayaki space is tight, so only one person can fit at a time. Arai Sensei is a small guy and even he can't stand up all the way. It is not for the claustrophobic hehe.
Look at the walls of the tamayaki, you can see its glossy. This is from the vapour of many firings before it. The bricks end up becoming glazed themselves!
We did not finish loading the kiln last night, but soon the stacks of pieces will fill this entire space, front to back, not a centimeter to spare. More pieces will be put in this Friday, then walls will be sealed and ready for the firing to start at 4am on Saturday morning. More to come soon!