Summer!

It’s the middle of July! That means the beach fire–the main annual fundraiser for the clay studio–is just around the corner! Woohoo!

Today there was a bit of a beach fire stuff-making party at the studio. There’s another one tomorrow, and beach fire clay[1] will be available for all comers who care to make something until August sometime. A small army of volunteers is involved in this project. All the work is donated, then wrapped in seaweed and string and wire and copper scrubbies and dipped is stains and filled with salt or sugar or copper or newspaper… Whatever’s at hand, really[2]. And then it’s all trucked down to Middle Cove Beach, laid in a pit with some burnables, and set alight. When the fire dies down, the pots come out, get scrubbed off, and are sold on the spot.

In unrelated news, I ate the first tomato from the back step today.

It’s a black cherry tomato. The oaxacan jewel started fruiting first, but the black cherry and, I suspect, the stupice, have outpaced it in terms of actually getting the fruit ripe. This little guy was so juicy it split itself open. Very sweet taste. Looking forward to the rest of them.

[1] Extra groggy! Will take a few layers of skin off your hands, but is more likely to survive a pit firing than the regular stuff.

[2] Capelin don’t d much. Just kinda burn away and leave a teeeeeensy bit of gray. If you’re lucky[3].

[3] Why yes, I do know this from experience.

Early August

Everything was glazed on time for the Folk Fest. It all came out lovely.

The festival itself went well; Saturday was dead slow but Friday and Sunday made up for it. I had to take a break Saturday and be a groomsman at my friend Matthew’s wedding, so that was fun. I didn’t get to see much of the reception, unfortunately[1], but I’m told the cephalopot teaset I made them went over well. They even went down to Britania Teas on Water Street, to purchase some tea, to be brewed in the teapot, when they get settled away in Halifax.

The music was good, the weather was (barring Saturday afternoon’s deluge) excellent, and the Lantern Festival people were out with a few specimens from this year, including this architectural marvel:

Once the Folk Fest was over, there was hardly time to catch my breath but the beach fire was upon us. It’s the main fundraiser for the studio; every year, volunteers spend a month or two making pots, which are bisqued, and then wrapped in seaweed, salt, copper, rope, rope soaked in salt, rope soaked in copper salts, copper scrub brushes, more seaweed, and wire. The pots get taken down to Middle Cove Beach, where they’re pit-fired and sold on the spot. This year we also had some manure in the pit, as that’s supposed to give blues and purples. We didn’t get as much as I’d been hoping for, but it’s a start.

I was working that day, but the Boss Lady let me off early, so I got to see the pots being unloaded, and help out a little with the odd jobs at the end. Then I went swimming in the ocean.[2]

And on Sunday I had some damn sleep.

[1]I was in a rush to get back to the park before my booth help turned into a pumpkin and went home for supper.

[2] It was cold. I had to be dared multiple times to do it, because I knew it would be cold, and lo, I was right.[3]

[3] Oh, okay. It was fun too.

Middle Cove Beach Firing

The beach firing went off wonderfully. We had great weather, good food, and some awesome pots.

In previous years, we’ve dug a big trench in the rocks and used that to do a pit firing. This year, there’s sign at the beach banning large fires, so we did two smaller firing in the ex-oil drum we used Monday night. The first firing, it was sitting directly on the rocks, so there wasn’t a whole lot of ventilation, and we got some great reduction happening. The top layer of pots was all smokey colours–some are almost purple–and the bottom had a lot of red. There was a lot of big, dramatic black patches, but I’d been hoping for brighter colours too. For the second firing, we propped up the drum to get some more airflow at the bottom. We got a lot less black and grey that time around, and a lot more reds and bright, sodium oranges.

While things were burning, there wasn’t a whole lot to do, so Heather and all us volunteers just vegged out on the beach for most of the day. I went up the trail towards Torbay, and got some blueberries. John Bear brought a cooler with his famous snow peas, fresh from the garden. Heather’s dad brought a sandwich tray. The family of one of the kids camp participants, who wanted to come down to the beach and see the big event, made everyone pancakes and bacon in the morning and hotdogs and greek salad in the evening. The beach fire, for all the effort that goes into it–clay mixing and volunteer pot-making started a month and a half ago–is really the best day of the year for the studio. There’s a lot of lugging and scrubbing before and after the firing, but in the hours in between, you get to hang out on the beach with a bunch of friends.

About the only thing that went wrong was that the second firing took so long to cool down, it didn’t get unloaded until right before sunset. We wound up packing up pottery and all our gear in the dark. (Until the wave of Saturday evening bonfire-makers turned up, and shined some flashlights around for us, which was great. Special thanks to the family with the party lights, who brought the most flashlights and even helped with scrubbing and packing the last of the pots.)

About ten minutes into the drive back to the studio, a wall of tired hit. Me, Lauren (the last student standing) and Heather dumped everything into the side storage room (commonly referred to as the Room of Death for all the mess that tends to accumulate there), and went home for soap and sleep.

I don’t know about the others, but I for one was so sooty by the end of the day that I turned the bathwater grey, and then had to have a quick shower to rinse off the bathwater. And then I slept until almost noon.

I took to many pictures to really fit them into a post, but you can find them here.

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.