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2019 Christmas Sales

A nice Large (30cm diameter) flat bowl serving dish; perfect for serving up the Christmas Goose or Turkey.

This year I will be having a stall at The New Bridge Community Centre Christmas Fayre on Saturday 30th November, 10am to 4pm. The Community Centre is located in Bridge Sollars church located just off the A438 on the road to Madley. There is parking available across the road from the chuch.

I will also have a small selection of pots for sale at the CUP Ceramics Community Cafe and Gallery throughout December. CUP Ceramics is based on the Foley Trading Estate in Hereford next door to the Hereford Yoga Centre.

I am also happy to have visitors at my studio by prior arrangement. Please see the contact page for details of how to get in touch.

 

Posted November 13, 2019 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

H.Art 2019   Leave a comment

Its that H.Art time of year again. Throughout Herefordshire artists’ studios and Galleries are open for 9 consecutive days displaying the work of local artists and artisans, the first day being Saturday 7 Sept. The majority of venues, including my own, are open from 11am until 5pm each day. Some are open for longer.

I’ve spent the last week transforming our summerhouse into what could reasonably be considered to be a gallery (if a little rustic), and the preceding 6 weeks firing both my wood fired kiln and my electric kiln to produce some (in my somewhat biased opinion) excellent  pots.

The garden is still looking very colourful and you are welcome to enjoy exploring it and relaxing in it.

A selection of salt-glazed pots

Posted September 4, 2019 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

H.Art for Christmas

A nice Large (30cm diameter) flat bowl serving dish; perfect for serving up the Christmas Goose or Turkey.

After what I considered a very successful first involvement with H.Art week in September and as a result of quite a few people asking, during H.Art week, if I would be opening up for Christmas I am going to be open for business on Sunday 25th November and Sunday the 2nd December from 11am until 4pm. There are new pieces to look at as I fired my electric kiln 2 weeks ago.

My tech-savvy wife tells me we will be able to accept credit cards as she has a new gadget which talks to her phone. It is, as yet, untested. Rather than risk disappointment I would also bring cash, a cheque-book or your phone + banking app with you.

Posted November 21, 2018 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

H.Art

I’m participating in H.Art this week. Its Herefordshire’s arts, artisans and crafts week-long festival of open studios, gallery openings and assorted craft venues . I’ve spent a fortnight turning the rubbish packed summerhouse into a gallery and making safe(ish) footpaths to it and my wood-fired kiln so visitors can see what I make and how I make it.

mug shelves

A display of my stoneware mugs

 

I’ve been clearing out rubbish, re-homing useful stuff, dusting and vacuuming, putting up shelves, building tables from scrap wood etc. etc. and today had a pleasant flow of visitors and good sales.

Tomorrow my wife is going to offer ‘tea and cakes’ (and coffee etc).

Maybe see you here.

 

Posted September 8, 2018 by damiankeefe in Uncategorized

This week I have been mostly making….a ware chamber.   Leave a comment

The first course of the ware chamber is bedded on ceramic fibre paper to ensure it has a perfectly level surface

The first course of the ware chamber is bedded on ceramic fibre paper to ensure it has a perfectly level surface

The kiln I am building has the ware chamber (the area – strictly speaking volume – where the pots are placed for firing) located above the fire boxes. The ware chamber floor is the fire box roofs. It has approximately the same length and depth dimensions as the base of the kiln and is just over a metre high , however this varies because the top of the chamber is arched. The internal volume is approximately 0.85 cubic metres (30 cubic feet) although not all of this can be used for stacking pots as shelf-free space must be left over  the flues which bring the heat, gasses and flames into the chamber from the fireboxes below.

 

 

 

Once the first ware chamber course is complete the corner supports can be put in place. These are held in place by threaded rods.

Once the first ware chamber course is complete the angle iron corner supports can be put in place. These are held in place by threaded rods.

The ware chamber is built with HTI (High Thermal Insulation) bricks. These are similar to, what in the UK, are called ‘breeze blocks’ or ‘Durox’, but they are very high temperature tolerant and even more thermally insulating. The material is like pumice but with a uniformly small bubble size. I read somewhere, many years ago, that it was developed as part of the US space programme for insulating the Space Shuttle during atmospheric re-entry and earned the craft the nickname ‘the flying brickyard’.

 

 

 

 

By the time the sixth course is finished the chimney outlet has been bridged using a piece of kiln shelf as a lintel. Note the thin slivers of HTI brick needed to make this wall the same length as the firebox walls and the way the bricks have been cut to allow a vertical panel of bricks to be removed

By the time the sixth course is finished the chimney outlet has been bridged using a piece of kiln shelf as a lintel. Note the thin slivers of HTI brick needed to make this wall the same length as the firebox walls and the way the bricks have been cut to allow a vertical panel of bricks to be removed

The HTI bricks are cut from a larger slab of material after it has been made and are therefore very uniform in size.  This is in contrast to the firebricks used for the base which are cut before they are fired and can vary in length by as much as 5mm with the majority being slightly longer than their nominal length of 230mm. This means that a row of 6 HTI bricks is almost always shorter than a row of 6 heavy fire bricks and necessitates cutting thin slivers of HTI brick to make up the length. Fortunately HTI bricks are easy to cut. The second, third, fourth and fifth ware chamber courses  have a gap in them at the back where the flue to the chimney will join and at the front of the chamber the bricks are laid such that they can be removed to allow the pots to be placed into the chamber. Although strictly speaking this panel of bricks is not a door, for simplicity’s  sake that is how I will refer to it from now on.

 

 

 

 

 

The ware chamber walls are complete, the door bricks have been cut so it can be laid in row-lock and two 'spy-hole' bricks have been put in.

Viewed from the front, the ware chamber walls are complete, the door bricks have been cut so the brickwork can be laid in row-lock and two ‘spy-hole’ bricks have been put in.

The remaining 7 wall courses are straightforward and similar and and when they were complete I took down the door bricks and cut one of each alternate course in half so that the door wall could be built more stably. In a couple of places I replaced a brick with two wedge shaped bricks one of which was slightly too long for the space available for it. This made it stick out from the wall which will allow me to pull it out during a firing to see what is happening in the kiln and pull out test pieces.

Finally, on each side of the kiln, a piece of angle iron is supported by brackets on the corner supports just above the top of the chamber wall. This is the ‘arch support’ which will prevent the arch, which forms the roof of the ware chamber, from pushing outwards and collapsing.

Next, the tricky bit, building an arch.

 

This week I have been mostly making …. fireboxes.   1 comment

Heavy firebricks are laid on the concrete floor to protect it

Heavy firebricks are laid on the concrete floor to protect it

The wood-fired kiln I am building has a lower and an upper half. The lower half is where the wood is burnt to generate the heat needed to fire the clay pottery. It is built from heavy fire-bricks which, although they need to be heat tolerant do not need to be particularly good insulators. They are cheaper and more robust than the High Thermal Insulation  (HTI) bricks which will be used for the upper half. The kiln has two fireboxes – each one the equivalent of a hearth in a domestic fire.  They are located at the front and back of the kiln with one of them being stoked from the left hand side of the kiln and one from the right.

The first course of bricks protects the concrete base from extremes of heat.

 

 

A hole is drilled into the concrete where each set of 4 bricks meet.

A hole is drilled into the concrete where each set of 4 bricks meet.

While laying the floor bricks holes are drilled in the foundation slab to allow steam to escape easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firebox course 1. This is the trickiest course to lay as the bricks are not all exactly the same length and the side walls have gaps in them.

Firebox course 1. This is the trickiest course to lay as the bricks are not all exactly the same length and the side walls have gaps in them.

The first course of bricks must be carefully planned to make sure the corners are square. Lots of measuring and set square usage. It incorporates supports for the ash grates which hold the embers from the burning wood until they are thoroughly burnt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fire bars on the left support the long billets of wood used to fire the kiln. As they burn they break up into embers which fall onto the ash grates below.

The fire bars on the left support the long billets of wood used to fire the kiln. As they burn they break up into embers which fall onto the ash grates below.

The ash grates and the fire bars (brick course 4) are made from mild steel angle iron and weldmesh. I measured and cut the pieces of metal and a friend in the village welded them together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire boxes second course. The outer bricks are laid flat whereas the inner bricks are laid on their sides.

Fire boxes second course. The outer bricks are laid flat whereas the inner bricks are laid on their sides.

The second and third courses are pretty straight forward except that a number of bricks must be cut. For the heavy bricks I used an angle grinder and for the HTI’s I used an old panel saw which was no longer sharp enough for wood.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1570

Fire boxes third course. Ash grates in position.

No mortar is used. The slight unevenness of size in the bricks is accommodated by adding a thin layer of fire-clay slip mixed with sand between courses.

 

 

 

 

 

The fourth course supports the fire bars

The fourth course supports the fire bars

The fourth course supports the fire bars. The inner wall, just below the fire bars is partly made from HTI brick as it is easier to cut and is not subject to much wear and tear in this location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire box course 5. The fire bars are not in position as the weight of the sixth course bricks is needed to prevent the central support bricks being pushed downwards by the unevenweight of a single set of fire bars on one side.

Fire box course 5. The fire bars are not in position as the weight of the sixth course bricks is needed to prevent the central support bricks being pushed downwards by the uneven weight of a single set of fire bars on one side.

Fifth course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire box course 6

Fire box course 6 with fire bars in position.

Sixth course.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire box course seven. This serves as the foundation for the ware chamber.

Fire box course seven. This serves as the foundation for the ware chamber.

Seventh and final firebox course. Great care is taken to make sure the brickwork is level from front to back and side to side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fire box roof. Kiln shelves laid on ceramic fibre paper. The gaps at each end are where the heat from the fires will rise into the ware chamber.

The fire box roof. Kiln shelves laid on ceramic fibre paper. The gaps at each end are where the heat from the fires will rise into the ware chamber.

The fire-box roof, which is also the ware chamber floor is made from 25mm thick kiln shelves laid on a couple of layers of ceramic fibre paper (which is more like felt than paper) This provides a good seal between the upper and lower parts of the kiln and evens out the minor unevenness in the final course of firebox bricks.

 

The next stage is to build the ware chamber – the place where the pots to be fired are placed – out of HTI bricks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week I have been mostly making….Concrete   Leave a comment

Shuttering for the concrete kiln base. The uneven stable floor meant there were gaps at the bottom of the shuttering in some places.

Shuttering for the concrete kiln base. The uneven stable floor meant there were gaps at the bottom of the shuttering in some places.

The wood fired kiln build has started. The first thing needed is a good level foundation. The design I’m basing my kiln on had a 4 inch (10cm) thick concrete slab. I happened to have some 14cm wide plywood strips which I exchanged with the lady who rents our paddock for a weeks rental of the paddock so my foundation was going to be 14cm deep. I created a 2 metre by 1.5 metre rectangle using the plywood as shuttering  and filled it about one third full with the hardcore which we find in the flower and vegetable beds. (The local soil is very stony and the house has been here for over 400 years and during that time it seems anything unwanted or broken was dumped somewhere in the garden.) The top edges of the shuttering were adjusted, using a spirit level, to make sure the concrete slab would be perfectly level.

After the first concreting session the gaps between the shuttering and the stable floor are sealed.

After the first concreting session the gaps between the shuttering and the stable floor are sealed.

The location of the stable means it is not feasible to get a concrete lorry to it so I had to mix my own concrete having wheel-barrowed the sand and cement from the road at the front of the house. I did it in two stages. The first session I mixed the concrete quite stiff and concentrated on filling the gaps between the bottom of the shuttering and the ground. The second session the mix was much wetter which allows the concrete to be levelled easily using a plank resting on the top edge of the shuttering.

The shuttering is full of concrete and the mixer is taking a rest

The shuttering is full of concrete and the mixer is taking a rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

small round lumps which appeared overnight in patches on the surface of the foundation slab

small round lumps which appeared overnight in patches on the surface of the foundation slab

Its a rule of DIY that nothing ever goes 100 percent to plan. When I came to look at the set concrete the following morning there were a few patches where the surface was lumpy. It certainly wasn’t lumpy when I left it the day before. On close examination it occurred to me that the lumps were all about the same size and shape. I wondered if bubbles had somehow formed in the wet cement, but a bit of prodding with a knife indicated they were solid. Fortunately concrete hardens slowly over a few days and I was able to investigate further by digging some of the lumps out. They were all approximately spherical and of very low density although quite hard and clearly mineral (rather than organic). I have no idea what they are but presume they were some sort of contaminant in the ballast I used to make the concrete with. Clearly they were light enough to float to the top of the liquid cement and protrude a couple of millimetres above the surface before the concrete began to set. Lumps on the surface are the last thing you need if you are going to lay bricks without mortar, which was the plan, so I investigated ways of removing the lumps.

Although not what you would call a smooth surface, the concrete was either a the right level or indented which meant my bricks would sit stably and levelly on it and not wobble

Although not what you would call a smooth surface, the concrete was either a the right level or indented which meant my bricks would sit stably and levelly on it and not wobble

Digging them out one by one was too slow and tedious but a trip to the tool shed reminded me I had a plasterer’s float that was designed for making large areas perfectly flat. It wasn’t intended to be used in the way I was going to use it, but since I last attempted to use it 30 years ago (unsuccessfully – plastering large areas is best left to the professionals unless you want a very rustic look) I felt it wouldn’t matter if it got a bit roughed up. It worked surprisingly well. As I moved it across the surface from a completely flat area to one of the bumpy areas its sharp metal edge would either knock the little spheres right out of the surface or it would cut them off level with the surface. It also levelled any raised areas around the sets of cat and bird footprints which too had appeared overnight. An hour later I had a foundation on which I could build the kiln – although it needed to harden for a few more days.