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Challenging Undertaking - Outdoor Pottery Workshop, No Power. Advice?

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Hello there, my partner and I are considering the challenging undertaking of a ceramics workshop at the next Burning Seed festival (Australia's Burning Man) in September, so quite a bit of research and development time. However, if this is an absolutely impossible task in your esteemed and learned opinions, it would be better to pull the plug early on.

 

It will be held outdoors (under shelter), there will be no electricity available and the festival lasts 6 days.

 

Budget isn't huge and conventional small gas kilns aren't easily available in Australia, so I've been considering the ceramic fibre flat pack gas kiln designs.

 

At this point, I believe my biggest challenge is the timeframe - I feel like delivering a glazed piece on day 6 is likely unlikely, particularly considering the lack of drying time and the unpredictability of being exposed to the elements. Though if there is any way I could incorporate a candling feature into the flat pack design, perhaps this issue could be mitigated.

 

Here are my thoughts on a timeframe:

 

Day 1 & 2: Handbuilding workshop - earthenware clay, cups

 

Day 3: Drying

 

Day 4: Candling and bisque

 

Day 5: Glazing and glaze firing

 

Day 6: Finished!

 

So my questions are:

 

-Impossible? Yay or nay?

 

-Is candling possible in the flat pack gas kilns? Perhaps with a smaller, less powerful torch attached?

 

-Are there any better ways you think this could be achieved?

 

-Do you have any other general advice?

 

Thanks wonderful people, this forum is an absolute wealth of information and you're all great.

 

If all else fails I'll just take some airdry clay and be done with it :-P

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If you have everyone make small and relatively thin-walled pieces, you can dry them in a few hours with fans and sunlight.

 

Oops, forgot that you won't have electricity to run fans. Sunlight and a good breeze will still get the job done.

 

(This sounds like a lot of fun.)

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OK a flat pack kiln is just that a fiber kiln made up of 6 flat panels(I goggled it)

I think this will work fine

If the wether is hot the pots will dry fine in sunlight . cover them at night if there is dew out.

candle them (slow heat for some hours) before firing them-you could use a small hand touch tuned on lowest spot to candle them.

6 days is plenty of time.

fire one day cool that night or next day-so that leaves 4 days for making and drying.

 

Marcia I think the pit fire is out as in burning man the playa (lake bed) cannot be disturbed (dug up)

not sure whats the rules are down under but here nothing can be disturbed or left behind on the playa.

have fun

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Can't dig in the ground, huh?
 
So do a pit fire in an 'above ground pit', aka metal barrel or a 'flat pack kiln' using the same fuel as if you dug the pit in the ground.  (just don't tell the pots, else they will be embarrassed)

Could also do a sawdust firing.

 

 

Some other thoughts other than about firing:

 

Choose a clay body that is open, dries easily, and is not fussy.
 
Choose a form for the pot(s) that is interesting but not too complicated. Keep things simple.  Without electric power, I assume hand building is the choice. 
 
Practice building the forms before hand using the tools and equipment you plan to take to the festival. 
 
Perform a 'what if' analysis of your program to help plan for what might happen or at least give you some ideas to cope if things don't follow the script when you get on site for real.
 
 
LT

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SO use the flat pack kiln to do a bisque, then do a foil saggar 1450F, obvara 1650F , or horse hair firing 1100F

no glaze needed. Just a fast firing and no shelves required.except for a shelf to raise the load above the burner entry.

 

Marcia

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To add to the suggestions above, I think all the pieces should be built from slabs that you and your crew roll out in advance. Thus ensuring that all the pieces are the same thickness. This will thwart a whole bunch of problems with fast drying and fast firing.

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I'm probably the worst to advise on this... But if the workshop depended on me, it would start day one at 8:00 to make 2-3 bowls, lunch, then pit fire the bowls after lunch, in reduction or oxidation.

 

Day two would be pigments, make more bowls with the intent to brush on pigments,

yellow, black, and red iron oxides, have lunch then pit fire in afternoon in oxidation. Allow time to burnish in pigments.

 

Day 3 would be coiling corrugated pottery and more bowls. Fire the bowls in after noon and corrugated next day. Corrugated vessels need longer times to dry because of forms.

 

Day four would be making tools so each could continue at home, and pit firing corrugated vessels.

 

Have you considered how much wood this will take?

 

Figure four large sacks of branches for each person each day!...what's left over can always be used later!

 

Day 5 would be raku with pre-bisqued pottery and portable propane...

 

Day 6 would be pre-bisqued obvara!

 

You've got plenty of time to practice! I've done limited amount of Raku and no Obvara...so I'd have to practice too. Not sue if it matters if you use slabs or coils, just worry about finished products. Your project is very doable. I tend to push the envelope...

 

Good luck, post pictures,

 

Alabàmà

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You're all so amazing and encouraging! What a fantastic array of options.

 

Yeah, I was considering providing for thickness consistency would be a good option, even my own pinch pots are often generally a bit thick for this. Pre-made slabs are a great idea.

 

There will definitely be a number of trial runs at home beforehand too.

I've never used one of the ceramic fibre kilns, so that'll be a good first step to work out the nature of the temperature control.

 

I'd love to Woodfire this, though I worry about the outside perception of fire risk vs a self contained gas kiln - even though I realise there's risk with both, I reckon the organisers would be more alarmed about wood combustion than gas. For a fire based festival, they're very worried about bushfires from the camps.

 

I'll try some different clays, though I reckon a groggy choice would probably give me more leeway.

 

Stay tuned for progress pictures in the coming months! How exciting!

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I wonder what your objective is in giving this workshop.  Are you trying to attract new people to pottery?  Are you trying to teach a particular technique?  Is this a fundraiser? Will your participants be signing on for the full 6 days?

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With the time constraints and all the variable that go with an outdoor show, have you considered a community 'tile' project?  The tiles could be formed and stored in advance...allowing the workshop to focus on stamps, imprints, stains and perhaps a one-fire process.  Have users make 2...one to take home and one to make a community tile project of some sort to commemorate the event.

 

Very ambitious project...would make for a cool documentary-type video project,

-Paul

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I wonder what your objective is in giving this workshop. Are you trying to attract new people to pottery? Are you trying to teach a particular technique? Is this a fundraiser? Will your participants be signing on for the full 6 days?

Hi LinR, the philosophy around burning man style events is to provide gifts to the community without an expectation of a return gift in kind, no money changes hands there.

 

Attendees are encouraged, beyond sharing food and drink with others, to also 'gift' their skills. That might take the form of a performance, or setting up a cool space for people to spend time in, contributing art etc.

 

Having been making pottery for the past few years and falling head over heels for it, I'm keen to share this passion with others at the festival so that they may be able to learn some skills, make something and take it home with them (or maybe even gift their creation to others).

 

On a more selfish note, I'm also keen to dive into the project for some personal development and learning. Already in the kiln research I've learned an immense amount so I can only imagine how much I'll further further over the whole process.

 

In my mind, I imagine someone will come along on one of the first few days, learn a few techniques to make a cup, perhaps make one or two, return on glaze day to glaze, then pick up the finished product at the end.

 

I'm also thinking of pre making and bisquing a number of cups just in case disaster strikes in the candling/bisquing so that people can have something to glaze if there's a problem. If everything goes well though, extra people can pop by on glaze day as well and be able to take something home.

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I really like the concept of the commemorative 2017 Seed festival tiles!!! If you trim them, they're tiles, leave them oval, they're plaques! Whatever you decide stick with the KISS principle, otherwise there runs a chance of too much for one person to handle.

 

Consider this a demonstration with tiles and plaques as the by-product and not a workshop where more is expected from you. Otherwise, you'll have a complete pottery studio to haul there, set up, and take down. KISS, and I think it will work out easier/ better. Maybe a primitive fire or a bisque with a dark stain wiped on and off might do the trick! Practice and do some trial runs! Take the pieces from the practices to trade to others, since the festival is set up as a trade center! Leave some time for yourself to enjoy the festival, take pictures and keep a journal...starting now.

 

See ya,

Alabama

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I also like the tile idea! You could pre-cut the tiles to make it really easy. Then, people can simply decorate, create little reliefs, work with textures, stamps, and colour. Tiles will dry quickly in the sun, and fire easily.

People don't like to be tied down to one thing during festivals. If a workshop is too long, people won't commit. They like to flit around and see everything and maybe will take in a workshop or two. Also, they like instant gratification... so completing something in one sitting is key!

I like the idea of creating a community art piece.

 

Have fun!!

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