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Shared Experiences from Our First Wood Firing

I intended to write this much earlier, but I just couldn’t get the words out. It felt as though if I got the words out and shared them, I would lose something treasured, some secretive feeling that I had during our first firing. Then, my words would be out and everyone could read them, judge them. But I think now that I am a few months removed from my thoughts and feelings about the first firing, I can allow myself to share.

Our first firing did not, as you might suspect, go as planned (what really does?). Our pyrometer -- the important tool that reads the temperature in the kiln as it fires -- went out. Without it, we had no idea what temperature the kiln was at and therefore had no sense for how long the firing should continue and no reference to how the pots were firing. There are antiquated ways to getting around this by using “cones” which melt at certain temperatures. To us, relying solely on cones was scary since we didn’t want to over or under fire our pots for our very first opening! Then, everything we had worked so hard on for the past year and a half would all be gone. So, we had to call off the firing.

We searched for another pyrometer, which is not the easiest thing in the world to do. Thankfully, JL Pottery in Colorado worked with us and was able to get one out to us very quickly, and within two days of calling off the original firing, we were able to begin again. After the drama of the initial firing experience, this second firing went relatively smooth. We were honored to have Joseph Sand, with whom Curry apprenticed under, and his new apprentice Alan, present at our last day of the firing.

Other than Curry having to stay up for almost 36 hours with the duration of the firing, it went about as well as it could go. But that’s not what I want to write about.

I want to write about the feeling that we had as we watched the the kiln firing. Watching our work for the past six months come to life. Witnessing the beauty that was transforming before our eyes, watching glazes drip and colors spring to life on the surface of the pots as they cooked in the kiln.

We were watching and waiting for the truth to be revealed in the surface of these pots. What would they look like? Would people like them? Would they even be functional?

As we sat there, waiting with little to do to pass the time (mind you, you have to be waiting with the kiln for the entire time it's firing) I felt part of another world, a world where simplicity, appreciating tradition, and family mattered most. A world where time seemed to almost stop and we could take in and appreciate what was really important.

But while we were there, and our families joined us in watching the kiln temperatures keep going up to reach its climax of 2,300 degrees, I kept noticing that one part of our family was missing: my brother. Though he’s a pilot by trade, he pretended for a day to be a potter and helped us load the kiln and roll countless kiln wads in preparation for the firing. But he wasn’t there to watch and experience the kiln’s final moment of truth and beauty.

As the kiln’s temperature was reaching its ultimate peak on a beautifully sunny and warm October day, we all looked up at the sky, as if to thank the kiln gods for a good firing, and we saw a plane, which is just an ordinary occurrence in the flight path where we live. In that instant, though, I knew it was my brother, the pilot. My parents, though, were a little skeptical because no one knew his flight plan that day and my dad said “if he tips his wings we’ll know it’s him.” And sure enough, the plane tipped its wings and we all started jumping up and down and waving.

He had flown over our kiln at almost the exact moment it had reached it’s top temperature, the moment which symbolized to us that we had made it; we had made the firing happen and we had succeeded in making at least one of our dreams come true: building a wood fired kiln that would not collapse and that had the potential to produce beautiful pots.

In that moment, all together, albeit my brother from high above with a plane's bird’s eye view, we witnessed a moment of personal history, of a history that we made happen through determination, grit, and a lot of sacrificing.

Having everything come together for our first firing, and then subsequently have an amazing first Kiln Opening, we will be forever thankful. Thank you for reading this story, and please, if you are reading this, don't give up on your dreams. Do everything possible to make what you want actually happen.

Thank you for reading!


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