Firing disaster at Kigbeare – April 2019

by Brigitte Colleaux

The firing was scheduled for the end of April so from February to end of March, I was making pots to fill my stack in the kiln.

The kiln has five rows of steps on which we stack the pots and a row saggars at the very back for Svend’s celadon bowls. We rotate through the steps at each firing and this time I had the second step from the back. It does not get as much ash as the front but very fine ash still travels there from the early stages and provides subtle hues and deposits on the bare surfaces of pots.

We follow a tight rota of glazing and packing dates: I was glazing my pots whilst the person before me was packing theirs. When it was my turn to pack, the next person would start glazing and so on.

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

When everybody had packed, I had the honour of lighting the fire, using scraps of wood kept for that purpose after the previous wood stacking.

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

We have a three shift system that includes an early, a middle and a late shift; I was assigned the 6am to 10am shift and I would be back at 6pm after 8 hours rest. For the first time ever since I have worked with Svend, that’s 11 years , I was going to share a shift with him. I could see myself learning all his tricks and secrets ! Obviously this was going to be a memorable and fantastic firing ! Well it has been , but not in the way that I had anticipated !

Because we had started the firing a day earlier, some members of the team had not arrived yet, thus the shifts were split between Svend, Pete and I; I started at 6pm with Svend following me at 10pm, then Pete at 2am. My job was to gently feed the fire; the early part is always very slow to let steam escape and to let the pots slowly dry. Svend and Pete did the same until 6am the next day.

Things had moved on during the night and at 6am, Svend told me to let it climb a bit faster, but not too fast. By 8am, at about 370Celsius, I heard an explosion which seemed to come from the front, the most dangerous place for pots. I said a few swear words and quickly looked in the front side stoke hole but could not see any damage to the big pots in the front. I carried on slowly with no further explosion. Svend came by ; he checked the front too but could not see anything either so I carried on as before.

At 10am, Svend took over ; I went for a rest. At 11am, he called me back as there had been further little explosions. He had looked inside with a torch and could see shards on the floor further inside the kiln. His verdict was that we could not take any risk with so much at stake and he decided that we must stop the firing. We also cannot afford to waste wood and everybody’s months worth of work.

By that time, the whole team was on site, including our friend the lovely Rainer Kraft, London Potter’s webmaster and student to Lisa Hammond at the Maze Hill Pottery, who had come to help. We were all in some kind of shock, not knowing what to expect and some of us with deadlines which would mean financial disaster if missed.

The temperature at that point was around 400; we had to let the kiln cool down before we could open it; it would take a few days. During that time, we split and stacked all the wood for the next firing.Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

At 150Celsius, we took the door down and opened all the side stoke holes to let cool air in before we could get inside. Using a torch through the sides stoke holes, we could see lots of shards and broken pots on the floor between the stacks ; it was devastating ! The glazes looked rubbery, we could see soot and ash covering the pots and the inside walls and arch of the kiln.

shards

When we could finally get in, it was very eerie, still warm, just about manageable but we were determined to restart that fire. We unpacked the whole kiln except the saggars. It was such a hard and depressing task. There were pots everywhere, it was difficult to move around; we have never found ourselves in a position where all the pots are there at the same time, unfired, because we rotate when we pack.

after

Once the kiln had been emptied, it was clear that stopping the firing had been the right decision; there was shrapnel everywhere, it came in the form of dusty specks, small grit, bigger grit, shards of all sizes and broken pots on the floor and on their sides on the stacks. The pots could be handled reasonably well as the glazes had hardened but were still slightly powdery; we used soft brushes to clean them off, revealing the glaze under the soot or ash. The kiln shelves were covered in soot or ash too, it was hard to tell what was what.

23rainerKraft

We found the culprit ! It was a large mixing bowl that was being refired and that had sat outside for a long while. It was completely dry when it went back into the kiln, but we hadn’t realised that chemical water was still trapped inside and caused the explosion. We have learnt the hard way !

The repacking eventually restarted. It was strange again; while the original packing had been so full of joy and happiness, this one was depressing and sad. We always help each other : one passes the pots while the other sets them. It is a real team effort. I kept on rewinding back and remembering how it had been the first time round; the conversations, how the pots had fitted etc… It was extremely hard too; you’d think that you could start again and fit everything as it was, but we had to find replacement pots for the broken ones and this altered the jigsaw puzzle.

IMG_1843

Eventually, we were done and what should have been the unpacking day, was the day we restarted the fire.

There were four of us this time instead of six, with Pete, Rebecca and I doing the shifts while Svend, who in the meantime, had had a full knee replacement operation, was overseeing the process. Deborah had an exhibition in Cornwall to prepare and could not stay and Rainer had to go back to London.

IMG_1877 (1)

Pete started the fire and each of us took our positions according to a new schedule; I was doing the vampires shift which I always really enjoy. No explosions this time ! On the contrary, it went very smoothly, too smoothly as the results would show us. This second attempt-firing was one of the easiest ones that we have had since moving to Kigbeare but it came at a price. We had reached temperature as indicated by the cones but the sides had received little ash and as a consequence, the pots were very quiet, some on the boring side. But at least we had pots to show for it !

The positive side to this is that we got to see what pots look like at 400. Having to stop everything was a humbling experience and it really reinforced our team spirit in the face of disaster. I would not recommend it as an exercise !

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Kiln Opening July 2018

It has been a long time since my last post; we have been busy making, firing, doing shows and sometimes having time off.

The team consists of Svend, Brigitte, Deborah, Rebecca and Pete. Joss has stepped down after two years at Kigbeare to start her own project at Powdermills Pottery.

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Svend Bayer

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-450.jpg

Our friend, the photographer Vanessa Champion, who was nomitated as one of 100 heroines for founding PhotoAidGlobal,  came to photograph the opening of the Kigbeare kiln in July 2018  :  here is a short selection of her photos, there were more than 700 of them !


The day before we opened, we came to measure the wood that we had used.

Vanessa also spent time photographing the pots in Svend’s showroom and him at work.

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-105.jpg

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-108.jpg

Some nostalgia

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-118.jpg

The old kiln sheds at Duckpool

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-120.jpg

The big kiln shed at Duckpool

And finally, the opening of the Kigbeare kiln.

 

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

 

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

 

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.ukCopyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-447.jpg

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-513.jpg

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-569.jpg

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-571.jpg

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-729.jpg

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

Copyright VanessaChampion.co.uk

And we had visitors from Australia, Steve Harrison and Janine King, Svend’s long time friends.

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361-346.jpg

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pre-Christmas Sale at Duckpool Cottage

Hi everyone,

As usual, Svend is having his annual pre-Christmas sale at Duckpool Cottage.

The dates are 24th November to 3rd December 2017.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Last firing at Duckpool

Svend’s 41st annual sale is taking place from 26th November to 4th December 2016 at Duckpool cottage, Sheepwash, EX21 5PW.

For more information, contact Svend on 01409 231 282. photo-1photo-3

 

 

A couple of sweet memories….

youngSvendEmptyingKiln

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Firing of the small kiln – August Bank Holiday 2015

The small kiln has not been fired for a long time and is very damp. After having packed it, Svend preheated it with hard wood for a week, bringing the heat between 70 to 120C.

The crew was Svend, Charlie Collier who works at Wichford Pottery in Oxfordshire and Brigitte. Maddie Carragher of Kigbeare Studio and earthenware potter, Jennie Hale also came to help on the Friday together on the same shift.

charlie brigitte

Brigitte arrived Thursday afternoon before the firing proper had started; she had brought some glaze tests to sneak in this firing and some pots for the next firing. Svend has kindly given his regular crew members, the lovely Deborah Mitchell and Brigitte, some space in his next firing. While Brigitte was getting her glazes ready, Svend got some shards from his reject pile outside his pottery and dried them on his Raeburn. When the shards were dry, they glazed and marked them and Svend found spaces in-between pots on shelves near the spy holes. Brigitte’s glazes are celadons, a tenmoku and some ash glazes. Svend then put the gas on very low for the night so the kiln would continue drying and preheating.

glazetests        loadingtests hand

earlyPhase

The firing

The firing started at 6am on Friday with Brigitte. The temperature was to gently climb at 75C per hour and the wood used was softwood. Svend took over at 10am until 2pm when Charlie arrived. The next shift was run by Maddie and Jennie : by the time they had arrived, Svend had brought the temperature to 900C and he started the reduction shortly after that. From about 900C at 18:00, it took 8 hours to reach 1100C. From this point, we soaked the kiln between 1140C and 1170C until Monday morning, with a regular shift pattern of 4 hours on – 8 hours off between Charlie, Svend and Brigitte.

Svend had added 18in to the chimney and this increased the draught. This meant that the temperature wanted to climb faster so we had to play with the dampers more than usual.

The main damper was used until the Saturday afternoon then Svend changed over to the passives at 2pm on Saturday to stop the black smoke. The passives were responding really well when we needed to tweak them to manage the reduction and the temperature.

passivesD Ending

Sunday was uneventful. The schedule was 3 or 4 sticks at the top and at every 3rd or 4th stoke (sometimes we forget to count), 6 sticks in the bottom to keep the ember bed even.

waterflame throwingwater

Monday morning at 6am, the scenario was the same but the temperature was hovering around 1204 indicating that it wanted to climb and get it over with. Svend went for his swim after his night shift, but he was soon back because he had forgotten that the pool is closed on a bank holiday. He decided we would finish when he had a rest and had breakfast.

The finish started very well. Charlie came on as well and from around 8:30am we were following the same pattern of 3 to 4 sticks at the top followed by 6 for the ember bed. We reached 1280 at the front and we started the side stoking to get the cones at the sides down. Unfortunately, we should have gone higher at the front before side stoking; we lost the momentum and we had to go back to the beginning. The cones at the sides just would not go down. Charlie and Brigitte went for a rest and Svend stayed by the kiln to figure out what to do. When Charlie and Brigitte came back after 30mins, they restarted the same schedule that had been taking place at 6am. Eventually, we got the cones down, but it was very difficult, very hot and exhausting. We finished at 15:30 hoping for the best.

checkingcones

The wood used

Two kinds of wood were used in this firing. Hardwood because it keeps an even and constant heat: beech, also used to heat Svend’s house, cherry and maple that came from Bjorn, Svend’s son, who had been carving his wooden spoons with it. 

spoons

Bjorn’s spoons

And Softwood because it is good for getting a steady temperature rise, used during heat work and until finish: we used Douglas fir in this case.

Svend has a supply of poplar that will be used when he fires the big pots in the big kiln. The plan is to fire the big kiln with only big pots and the theory is that the poplar produces beautiful ashing.

corner

The wood stacks

The wood is stacked by Svend and arranged around the kiln for easy access and according to what we need during firings. Svend often rearranges or moves the stacks before firings so that the older wood gets used sooner.

The bigger logs get split into four and are stacked to the front of the kiln; they are used during heat work and finishing of the front. The thinner logs are separated and stacked at the sides for us to side stoke during finish.

wood

movingpyro

Svend moving the pyrometer from the front of the kiln to the back.

Svend comments over this firing

When I pack a kiln I often find that I am trying to avoid the mistakes of the last firing. The front of the last firing was slightly underfired so this time I used a tenmoku that reacts well with fly ash but melts at a slightly lower temperature.However, when the firing was almost over I could see that it was going to be slightly underfired again so we went back to the front and made sure that cone 12 was completely over across the front and at the sides of the front row of shelves and then got cone 11 down everywhere else with cone 12 moving. This time the front was overfired with heavilly ashed glazes pouring off the pots and onto the shelves.Had I used a harder Iron glaze the results would have been much better. But with overfiring you often get spectacular colours and we got some of those too The rest of the kiln was very good.

axejar1  jar

We were lucky to have Bjorn around one day. He is a wonderful cook and he treated us to one his delicious curries.

dinnertime

And finally….

kilnlog

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A few photos of Svend at “Art in Clay-Hatfield House ” by James Hazlewood.

DSC_0396DSC_0388DSC_0458DSC_0399DSC_0402

Posted in Hatfield Art in Clay, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Exhibition of Svend’s new work at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre

Private View Wednesday 1st April – 6pm to 8pm

Photo by Joanna Filer-Cooper

Photo by Joanna Filer-Cooper

Svend Bayer was born in Uganda to Danish parents.
After studying at Exeter University he worked with Michael Cardew at Wenford Bridge Pottery from 1969 to 1972 when he joined the Brannam Pottery in Barnsatple. He worked there as a thrower for a year. After travelling in the Far East, Asia and the U.S.A., he set up his workshop in Devon in 1975.

Michael Cardew said of Svend Bayer “He is more than just a potter, he is a force of nature. ……   he is easily my best pupil’’
Bayer has exhibited widely in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. He makes his wood-fired stoneware pots in rural seclusion in Devon using a cross-draught, single-chamber 800 cu.ft. kiln,
Best known for his large garden pots he also makes domestic ware.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A selection of pots

Photo-journalist Vanessa Champion came down to Devon to photograph Svend’s pots.
Vanessa’s portfolio includes her work with performing artists and crafts people. She is also involved with charities and NGOs in Africa, India, Nepal and Europe.

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361 copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

copyright vanessa champion 07747 025361

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Svend’s annual sale

SvendSale

Image | Posted on by | 3 Comments

A few videos of Svend getting pots out of the kiln

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments