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horn island kiln

updated fri 28 may 99


LOWELL BAKER on wed 26 may 99

I believe I can pronounce the Horn Island workshop a success. There
is no one on CLAYART who attended so I can tell the story any way I
see fit; so here goes.

A week ago Sunday I loaded my boat and canoe with all the stuff they
would hold and set off for Horn Island Mississippi in two to three
foot seas. The island was barely visable out there twelve miles so
we took a heading after following the markers through a shallow
channel. the trip across took almost two hours because I was afraid
of swamping my canoe/trailer which held all of my pots and some of my

The first afternoon we set up camp on the deserted shore of Horn
Island. My wife, son and I had the island to ourselves that evening.
We explored the gator ponds and the gulf side beaches, even did a
little skinny dipping in the bay.

The next morning the crew arrived to set up the cook tent and deliver
supplies for the four day workshop. At about noon the scooner
arrived with the workshop particpants and the kiln parts. By Monday
evening we had one kiln constructed and the parts in place for the
second. We stacked the kiln and lit it to see how it would work.
Everything seemed fine but for a few adjustments. We scrounged the
island for the proper beach trach parts to fix the firebox and found
two hurricane deposited stainless steel refrigerators from boats.
We hacked these into the proper size sheets of stainless and fixed
the firebox.

Tuesday we stacked the kiln again and finished the second kiln.
We lit the first kiln about noon on Tuesday and fired it through the
evening with driftwood. Stoking began in earnest at about 5:00.
By nine O'clock on Tuesday evening we reached what seemed to be a
good temperature and sealed the kiln. Wednesday morning we opened
the kiln to find the stoneware clay was well vitrified, there was a
nice light salt on the pieced and some pretty exciting woodash.
The firing was relatively even and portions of the kiln seemed to
have reached cone ten or higher. In subsequent firings I slumped
small amphorea made from B-Mix. Each of the firings went much higher
than I had ever expected they would.

During the four days of firing we managed six kiln loads. we used
about four pickup loads of hurricane deposited drift wood and another
two pickup loads of wild Rosemary brush.

The kiln design wasbasically a Roman kiln: a trench dug into a sand
dune; into that trench a barrel was laid which had both ends cut out of it
this would be the firebox. At the deep end
of the trench a box was constructed out of stainless steel sheet to
hold the sand back and a large kilnshelf was laid across this
opening, leaving abut six inches of space for the flame to enter the
stacking chamber. the stacking area was a barrel lined with one inch
of blanket refractory. A sheet of stainless was placed on top of
the stacking chamber to act as a damper. A six inch space was left
open. A third barrel was placed on top of the stacking chamber to act
as a flue.

As the firing of the first kiln was completed we moved the flue to
the second kiln and covered the first with stainless and shells.

The work was stacked on top of each other with shells between to
prevent sticking. When the load did not shift this worked well,
when the shells fell out or the load shifted in the firing we had a
mass of pots stuck together. The stacking was tight from bottom to
top of the chamber.

I believe this type kiln produces interesting results and it is an
important tool to help students learn about the process of firing. I
am planning to build a kiln here at The University of Alabama like
the Horn Island kiln to help my students experience that direct
contact with the fire.

Horn Island was a wonderful experience for this old guy. After a
week on the island we were happy to get to a real bath and a bed
that did not rock throught the night. My wife and
son are already planning our return. I would like to thank Annette
Blocker and the George Ohr Cultural Center in Biloxi, Mississippi for
the opportunity to teach this workshop.

If you are interested in Horn Island you might want to get a copy of
Horn Island Log by Walter Anderson. It is a remarkable journal by an
interesting man. Information on George Ohr is a little easier to

W. Lowell Baker
The University of Alabama

Toni Yoder-LeBlanc on thu 27 may 99

i am very familiar with walter anderson's work. i think the sound of your
version of this work shop intrigues me. i find any form of woodfiring
exciting. i would be very interested in the return trip and if it is open to
anyone. i am a working potter in lake charles, la. i participate in the
peter anderson street fair in oceansprings each fall. look forward to the
possiblity of learning more about this.

Toni Yoder-Leblanc
lake charles, la.

Lyle Moore on thu 27 may 99

I was on Horn Island and was fascinated with the whole process. Even more
fascinating was Baker himself. His total encompassing enthusiasm was a joy to
see. Thank you, Lowell Lyle