Plan for this morning is to start firing from the side mouth. At the kiln site, Sydney looked sad as she felt she was responsible for not raising the temperature to the intended level. I just told her “No problem” as I was certain that within a short time we could raise the temperature back to the desired level. Actually I have been impressed by her skill to keep raising the heat level even though she has had no experiences. She has done more than well with her skill level.
At 9.30 a.m. the temperature reached 1150 degrees just as I planed. Tsuchigama (reconstructed medieval kiln), I had proved, is capable of baking at a temperature 100 degrees lower than the case for modern brick kilns. I was hoping to prove that the kiln made of Arkansas clay equally perform. Looking inside the kiln, I confirmed that the result was truly great and I made sure of it by pulling a color sample out to examine more carefully. Then at 10 a.m. I decided to start the fire from the side mouth. Side firing was controlled under experienced eyes of Akai, beginning with firing for the first chamber from the front mouth, stabilizing the target temperature ups and downs Then in 1 to 2 hours. the temperature rose at a slow pace and as the baking from the front was complete, keeping the control from the front. After fiver hours the number 1 chamber reached the planed temperature and we cut opened a side mouth for the No. 2 chamber. It was the most hectic time as we had to manage firing on top of the front opening plus side mouth at the six control points. In eight hours from the beginning of the first side firing, through several cycles of rise and hold, and then down over in 8 hours total, we could accomplish desirable baking two times.
As we have had no data for the first fire, Akai was highly focused and intense controlling the temperature. It is critical for her to concentrate her attention as we have no data on the characters of this new kiln. Akai did well with her two assistants under intolerable heat. I remained at the front firing and offered advices as needed on side firings. It is not just keep raising the temperature, but to control it over time is the most important to collect process data for future success. I must integrate all the learning in dealing with this new kiln. Forming the kiln frame, empty bake, stuffing, and
the firing, and with all the physical works our bodies must have been exhausted but strangely my mind stays cool and quiet.
10 hours from the start of the side firing, baking in the chamber 1 being complete, now moving to chamber no. 3, the whole baking process is now nearly complete, we are at a stage to raise the temperature for chamber 2 and 3. So if the result of the chamber 3 is good, we can say the whole this was a success. Soon afterward, chamber 3 temperature began to rise, that enabled us to control the
heat in chamber 3 exclusively. We observed fire at the end chimney , it was not an easy task to control the fire at tail end of the kiln, but somehow we were successful to control the temperature.
Checking the temperature inside the kiln, I noted there are some differences from the Bizen kilns, but the colorings of the works inside the kiln looked just as great, all that gave me enough confidence to declare the end of firing. It has been 12 hours from the first side firing, Glancing at all the art works. I felt a certain relief that all is well under control. Final proof of success depends upon how the all the art works come out when the fire is put out .
Extinguishing the fire, closing the firing mouth with fresh clay, I tapped with my gloved hands on the top of the kiln to congratulate for the job well done. We all must rest while the kiln cools down and then we will clean up to finish the whole thing.