25 gallon down to 5 gallon metal drum (the smaller the size the quicker the firing, (practical to fire a few at a time), sawdust, straw, small kindling wood, split wood, lighter fluid, red iron oxide, course sea salt, copper carbonate, plastic cups, sponge, soapy water, scourers, brush, soft cloth. Rubber gloves, kiln gloves, kiln apron.
If available other combustibles can be experimented with e.g. Nutshells, banana skins, moss soaked in salt water, horse manure, copper wire, bamboo leaves, pine needles.
Lay sawdust or straw for bottom layer. Sawdust will smoulder for longer, smoking the work so that a darker smoke effect is achieved. Disperse equal amounts of red iron oxide and course sea salt for shades of orange and yellow, over the area that you will lay work making sure that the flames, smoke and colourants can affect as much surface as possible. Prepare work by filling with organic combustables, securing same on outside surface with masking tape or copper wire. Arrange work so that heavier pieces are at the bottom to minimise potential damage, if the pieces are touching this acts as a resist, so enhancing markings, giving lighter shades. It is possible to use a bigger piece as a saggar to contain smaller pieces, packed with straw. Copper carbonate can be sprinkled on top and around clay pieces to achieve shades of burgundy and pink. Finish with a layer of straw until the work is completely covered, making sure the straw also fills any open spaces between the work. The straw will produce a great deal of smoke during the firings, creating lovely greys and blacks, the straw leaving trace surface pattern. Finish packing by sprinkling more salt and red iron oxide on top of straw and mounding different sizes of wood and kindling on top making sure there is no overhang beyond perimeter. To ensure a good start add lighter fluid to the wood and allow to soak in for a few minutes. If windy it may be necessary to light the fire a few times until it catches. There will be tall flames at the beginning of the burning, these will lower as the wood burns away, turns to hot embers, and finally begins to expose the work. The heavy burning of flames will die out in about 45 minutes; the other combustibles will continue to burn for 4 – 6 hours. Once all the material has burned away and the barrel is cool you can unload the work, clean off any residue with soapy water and a sponge and scouring pad if necessary but be careful not to be too rough. Finish with alight coat of beeswax and light buff with a soft cloth, this helps to seal the surface and enhance the colours.
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