Madrid Wood Fire: Day 1

The wood is delivered in these large bundles that we cut up with chain saws.


Our annual wood firing in the large anagama (climbing or tube) kiln outside of Madrid, New Mexico is finally upon us. I’ve spent the last few weeks focusing on new cups, pots, and bowls for this firing and really hope I get some good results!

The first step in this labor-intensive firing process is wood prep. Yesterday, the ten of us who are firing spent four hours cutting, sorting, and stacking 5 cords of scrap lumber from the Spotted Owl lumber mill in Santa Fe. (The wood is free but there is a charge for delivery to the kiln site.) We’re thankful to put this scrap wood to good use rather than land-filling it. Even though wood prep is hard physical work, it’s work in the service of a great cooperative effort, and it’s always such a pleasure to reunite with pottery friends who come together for the annual festivities. Here’s how it went:

The wood is cut into bite-sized pieces (2-3′) with chainsaws, then transported by hand or wheelbarrow to stacks around the front and sides of the kiln.


As you can see, the wood comes in all sizes. The larger boards are separated from the thinner pieces for different uses during the firing.

The larger pieces are stacked around the fire pit, not far from the front of the kiln (firebox). One firing will devour most of what you see here.

The pile’s getting smaller….

Bill: It's an owl carrying a cat!

Finally, the dregs are raked up and taken over to the Arroyo Of Many Broken Pots, where, as the name suggests, pieces that don’t survive the firings are often laid to rest.

UP NEXT: Day 2-4 Glazing wares and loading the kiln this weekend–stay tuned! You can also check out Jesse’s video journal here, for a live-action feel. (That’s me in the purple…

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4 thoughts on “Madrid Wood Fire: Day 1

  1. Hey Laura,
    I’ll be moving to Santa Fe in about a month from Chicago and was wondering what the lowdown was on woodfire in the area. I’m a novice with one crazy fire under my belt on a cold rainy November weekend this past year and am itching to participate again. Looks like Madrid has a beautiful setting and you got some great results!

    • Hi Erik, thanks for your note. Yes, we have a pretty active wood firing community in this part of New Mexico. The kiln in Madrid is the largest and is fired by a group of people who mostly live in Albuquerque. We get together once a year, sometimes twice. The kiln was built through UNM about 15 yrs ago. There are also several wood kilns in northern NM, around the Taos area. I can put you in touch with the people who organize firings. The usual policy is to hang out and help for at least one firing to get a sense of the work/time involved, meet people, and decide if it’s something you really want to do. If there is mutual agreement, you can participate fully in the next firing(s). I think the Taos kilns are being fired in early June–feel free to contact me when you’re here and I’d be happy to give you more info.

  2. Pingback: Scatter my ashes in a wood kiln « Live Clay

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