Dick Lehman Pottery
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In my kiln with a wood-fired pot.

Further Reading:

> READ the complete text of an article I authored about side-firing, entitled "Side Firing: Where the Life Is", originally published in Ceramics Monthly Magazine, (USA), April 1996.

Gravity Defying Ash:
  My Side-fired Techniques

For years — long before I had regular access to a wood-fired kiln — I had been attracted to wood-fired pots.especially to those that were fired on their sides. Whether side-fired by choice, or the result of some unforeseen firing accident, the (seeming) gravity-defying movement of the natural ash glaze on the body of a pot which had been sideways in the kiln, had long been attractive to me. And I was especially moved by those pots that had been fired for long days and weeks — those bearing thick unimaginable accumulations of flowing viscous ash.

Being without a wood-fired kiln, I saw no way to make works which embraced the aesthetics I so admired. However after some years of reflecting upon this side-fired aesthetic, I determined to try to create a way of pursuing these visual delights, while still working within the limitations of my gas-fired kiln. What has emerged is a process that, perhaps, breaks some of the normally-held "rules" of firing.

The pots are glazed with a "carbon-trapping" Shino-style glaze. While the glaze is still wet, wood ash (harvested from the fireboxes of anagama wood-fired kilns) is sprinkled on one side of the work (the "top" side). Later, colorants and fluxes are added to the pot near the wood ash. The piece is then laid on its side atop a one-time-use tripod, which I construct. Often I place a seashell on each leg of the tripod, so that the pot is in contact only with the seashells.

During the firing the ash and fluxes and colorants melt, mix, and mingle as they begin to run from the "top" side of the pot to the bottom side. There the flow often forms a big drip or two of glassy ash-glaze, before dripping off the pot into the tripod basin. At the end of the firing some of these drips are captured, drooling off the pots, as the pots cool.

After the firing when the pots are cool, the shells (which have turned from calcium oxide to calcium sulfate as a result of their interaction with the intense heat) dissolve when placed in water, leaving the shell marks that are visible on many of my side-fired pots.

These side-fired pots are no longer mere substitutes for wood-fired pots: they have developed their own voice and aesthetic — one which I continue to pursue, even though I now have regular access to several wood-fired kilns.