9 11 2008

It is strange and blessed to have been able to do wood firing at the dragon kiln in Singapore. I read with great interest that in Anagama, the term “wood-fire artist” is used for a person who is practising wood firing.

In the art of wood firing, the type of wood used is very important. One can use a chosen wood at a specific front chamber and another type of wood for the side stoke windows. In temperate countries, the woods can be eucalyptus, ash, pine, oak, maple and cedar. What do we use in Singapore? Chengai, balau, kapor or meranti? Negative. We use anything that we can get hold with as shown in the picture below. We do not have the luxury to choose the type of wood that we want to use. Nevertheless, we can still expect abundance of unknown mixed wood ash deposits on the clay bodies.

Clay is the most important part in the wood firing process. I try to take the purist approach in the current wood firing so the decision to use local white clay is established at the very beginning. The next decision is not to apply any glaze with an aim to collect the natural mixed wood ash deposits with occasional salt and may be copper carbonate as active agent in the firing process.

It is hoped that a distinctive quality produced at the local dragon kiln with local clay can be evolved to promote something that is uniquely Singapore!

Let’s talk a little more about the local white clay. The white clay collected from Jalan Bahar and Neo Tiew Road is quite smooth but flaky when it is dried. The clay is also iron-free. It is most suitable for making smaller wares.

Hopefully, length of firing duration, firing techniques, the existing dragon kiln design and perhaps some divine influences are the recipes in bringing the best for the local white clay that we are currently using. I am looking forward to a rewarding wood firing experience and I wish my pieces will have the unexpected colouring qualities as a result of locations, placements, ashes, vapours, fire, salting and other substances.

This time, we also place at least three waddings at every piece to prevent the piece from sticking to the shelf. Although we use clay and sand to make the waddings, we occasionally substitue them with cockle shells in order to achieve some special effects. While placing my bowls at their side-walls on the shells, I could imagine how the fire would negotiate its path from the fire box towards the gaps surrounded by the shells and charge towards the bowls thus leave the fan-shaped marks of the shells on the clay bodies.

Hope that my imagination will become reality!






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