Thursday, November 11, 2010

Loading the Kiln and Bowls

It has been a busy fall at Sara Yama Studios for Arai Sensei so firings have been a little behind schedule. Last week I had some free time at the end of class so I watched (and helped where I could) with loading the kiln for a bisque firing.

Here is the kiln half full, as you can see everything must be sized to fit on certain shelves. The height of the blocks between each rock sheet determines the height of each level.

There are large pieces on top of the kiln that are drying, the heat in this room helps take out the final moisture before firing.

Short pieces are on the bottom and tall pieces towards the top. Arai Sensei is a pro at putting in as many pieces as possible. He said this type of thing would be great for people who like puzzles haha.

Here is the kiln all loaded and ready. There are at least 150 pieces crammed in. One thing I did not know was that for bisque firing it is OK if pieces are touching each other. (Obviously glazed pieces cannot since they will melt together) The only thing the pieces cannot touch is the wall of the kiln.

This batch is ready for firing. Since it is an electric kiln all Arai Sensei has to do is turn it to the right program and push the start button, everything else is automated. About 30 hours later the kiln has cooled off and is ready to be unloaded.

Interesting fact: The monthly kiln electricity bill is about 70,000 yen! (about $750) So on average each firing costs about 10,000 yen! ($112!) Luckily the town helps cover the fees, making Sara Yama one of the cheapest places to learn pottery in Kyushu. I've checked other studios in and around Fukuoka city (Biggest city in Kyushu) and the prices are much higher for everything! About 1500yen for 1 kilo of clay compared to Sara Yama's 450yen. Also the Fukuoka studios charge by the gram for firings. (About 2.5 yen per gram) YIKES!

Anyways, here are three bowls I have made recently out of kuromikage or black stone clay. They are currently waiting to be shaved at the bottom.

Over view of the bowls.

After loading the kiln we had cream cheese salmon roe crackers! One of the older ladies brought some very good roe and I brought the cream cheese and crackers (which none of them had tried before!) It was a hit :) Oishikatta!

Until next time!


  1. love seeing your pottery. Nice work with the swirling colors in the clay. I'm a mixed media painter in western Canada. I was told recently that my work might be very popular in Japan. Do you know of any galleries or shops that might be interested in carrying my art? thanks, Carrie Harper

  2. Such great info on kilns and firing. Thank You.