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Saturday, June 11, 2005


98 Firings Under the Belt: Liz Berry's Kiln is Fired Up for the 98th Time

I've been busy these past few days, but some interesting things have been happening in my world of late.

My old friend Shawn is back in town. He and I biked with the Fairbanks Cycle Club for many years before he had to leave Fairbanks in 1999 to help his mother out. His dad was dying of lung cancer (he died in late 1999) and he went down to help her sort out his dad's estate and move her to Reno. He's been in Reno ever since, with an occasional trip up here since then. The last time I saw him was September, 2002. We rode part of the Equinox Marathon route and then rode over to Liz Berry's place for the kiln-firing party.

Anyway, I saw him over at my favorite coffee shop yesterday after work and we traded stories and talked for a bit. He's up here for our mutual friend Malcom McEwen's wedding on Sunday. Shawn also told me that there would be a kiln firing on Saturday morning. I told him I would be there.

I slept in this morning and spent some time on the computer, catching up on emails, TT subs, etc. I then rode my bike up Henderson Road to the top, then down Ester Dome Road. I stopped at the turnout by Ann's Greenhouses to talk to Rocky and Gail, who were participating in the Tour of Fairbanks stage race. Then, I rode up the bike path and took the trails up by Black Sheep Lane and the horse farm to come down Miller Hill and stop by Liz's place.

She's living at the Pioneer's Home now and her Parkinson's Disease has gotten much worse over the years. However, she fires her wood-fired pottery kiln up twice a year, once at the beginning of summer and once in the fall. Today was Firing Number Ninety-Eight for Liz Berry's kiln.

I got there a little after noon. There were crews of people splitting wood into kindling to be thrown into the fire. The potters were watching the fire carefully, checking the temperature and looking at the cones on the various levels. I parked my bike and basically watched as things went on. Wood was cut, stacked in boxes, and at either end of the kiln, bundles would be thrown in onto the grate. Ashes would be removed and put in buckets. There were other buckets full of mud for sealing up the kiln, which came in due time. Once Liz had decided that the kiln was hot enough, she signaled the potters and helpers that it was time to seal up both ends of the kiln. My friend Tom Clark was one of them. First, they took the grates out of each side, then grabbed boxes of kindling for each side. Then, they stacked up wood to be crammed in behind the boxes.

Once the boxes were secured in the kiln, they crammed wood in behind them, all the way up to the back. Then they put the sealing plates over the holes, carefully stacked bricks up around them, and piled mud around and on top of the bricks everywhere to seal up the kiln.

Then it was time to clean up around the kiln, sweep up the wood scraps, and put everything away until the next kiln firing.

They will open the kiln up tomorrow to see how things are doing in there. It should be a good group of pottery!

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