Beach Firing

The post-Folk Fest wind-down hasn’t been very wound down. The studio’s in the last stages of getting ready for the beach firing at Middle Cove–the main annual fundraiser–and every volunteer Heather can get her hands on has been drafted. (In my case, this involved staying up until two in the morning Monday with Heather and a drum fire in the Craft Council’s parking lot.[1][2] I’ve only just stopped being a zombie today.) Pottery is being wrapped in seaweed, copper wire scrubbers, string soaked in cobalt and copper solutions, copper wire, and all kinds of things. It’s then wrapped in newspaper, in preparation for being taken down to the beach on Saturday morning, laid in a pit, and fired. All the pottery is made by volunteers, and proceeds go to support the Craft Council Clay Studio, which is a not-for-profit educational resource for the community at large as well as professional potters.

This year’s fire will be Saturday morning to afternoon, weather permitting.

[1] We had to do it after all the cars were out of the parking lot, see, so they didn’t catch fire. And the fire had to burn slowly, so there’d be more time for chemical reactions between the oxygen, heat and materials in the fire to make pretty patterns on the pots.[6]

[2] Okay. Every year, we have the beach fire. And every year, the big roaring fire attracts lots of attention, but we can’t take any of the pottery out until well after the attention-grabbing fire has died down, and very few people come back to the beach four hours later to buy a pot. It’s been pointed out that the beach firing would be a much more succesful fundraiser if we had some finished work available for sale at the same time as the fire was going. So this year, we fired up some of the pots early.[3]

[3] In a former oil tank, raised off the parking lot on a kiln stand, with many large buckets of water and a fire extinguisher in case of bad things happening. Every now and then we’d slosh some water under the tank to keep the asphalt from melting, and there were all these green and blue flames from the copper carbonate and the road salt in there, and it was so much fun. Until one of the neighbours called the fire department.[4]

[4] They were surprisingly understanding firefighters, probably because they weren’t dealing with the bunch of drunk teenagers they were likely expecting. Also, they showed up well after the fire had started to die down, not when the flames were four feet high.[5]

[5] They let us put the fire out very slowly, to save the pottery from cracking under thermal shock, but they were very firm about it having to be put out. And we are never, ever allowed to do it again.

[6] We got some *really* nice colours out of that drum. Turns out the secret to soft, peachy oranges is lots and lots of road salt. Also, marbling copper carbonate into the clay gives much more solid and vivid reds than sprinkling the copper carb on top.

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