Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Soda Program

Soda firing -- also known as atmospheric firing -- is a firing method for clay pieces that has already been bisque fired. In the soda firing process, soda ash (sodium carbonate) is mixed in water with saw dust and other additives to form lumps.  This lumps are introduced into a hot kiln that has been firing for several hours to Cone 10.  When the soda and sawdust lumps hit the hot flames, sodium vapor is created that moves around the pieces in the kiln with the movement of the flame.  Sodium vapor combines with the silica in clay to form sodium-silicate glaze.  Soda fired pieces has a unique orange peel effect on their surface.  The amount of silica in the clay body, where the exterior of the piece is slipped or glaze adds a dimension of uniqueness to the finished product.  The location of the piece and the pieces that surrounds the piece also provide a dimension of uniqueness.  All in all -- Soda firing is a very interesting process and should be added to any potters repertoire of knowledge.

Soda firing works just as well with wheel thrown or hand built pieces and does not discriminate against functional ware or sculptural work.

Students who wishes to learn about Soda firing, how the form and surface embellishment of a piece impacts the outcome and how slips affects the appearance of a piece should consider taking the Simply Soda class.

For those who have taken at least 2 Simply Soda class and wants to move on to more challenging aspects of Soda firing might consider Advanced Topics in Soda Firing.  And, for the first time in the Soda Program's history at Lillstreet, the instructor for this class will be Charles Jahn.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about Soda Firing should read the Soda, Clay and Fire by Gail Nichols.  There should be copies of this book around Lillstreet so if you don't wish to purchase one, you should be able to quite easily borrow one.

Adam August checking the cones in the soda kiln (not apparent in the photo: flames spitting out of the peep hole)

Soda is a very hands-on program.  Students are encouraged to load and unload the soda kilns, participate the firing process and also perform some kiln maintenance.  These tasks provide invaluable insights to the working of a kiln and how the placement of a piece impacts the final outcome.

So, come on . . . take a dip in the Soda Firing pool . . . you may never want to get out.

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