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kiln god story swapping

updated sat 30 apr 05


Karen Stokes on mon 25 apr 05

Usually I only lurk on the list, as I am not potting at this time in my
life, and usually don't have much to say. I just enjoy the various posts,
and save a few for future potting info.

But the post by Martie Geiger-Ho caught my eye. I went and looked at her
site, and really enjoyed it seeing the various images of old kiln gods.

But, the ones I have made and have seen made are much more primitive than
those images shown on her web site. While I was learning clay and throwing
while in high school in California, it was understood that we would ALWAYS
make a kiln god figure, several in fact. Anyone who wanted to make one was
invited to do so. I wish that I had pictures of all the little figures that
sat above the door on our old steel mill fire brick ^10 kiln. Some of them
were really inventive and interesting.

What surprised me was that when I got back into clay in my mid-life
wanderings in Georgia, the local college instructor, a really GOOD potter
named Cleon Phillips, never failed to construct a kiln god image, and place
it above the door of his ^10 kiln.

It just struck me kinda interesting that the kiln god image thingie was
apparently from coast to coast, and transcended about 30 years, and was
still going strong.

Karen Stokes
3 Feathers Ranch
Snowflake, Arizona

(Where I am working on the Hopi Rez, it is STILL sleeting, raining, and
snowing periodically, and the Kachina Dances are going strong every weekend)

katetiler on fri 29 apr 05

I agree - in the 16 or so years that I've been helping to fire the
wood-fired kilns at a Tudor living history site in Suffolk, England
(UK) and at other woodfirings with our own kilns we always make a
little kiln goddess out of clay just before we light the firebox, and
sit her above the entrance to the kiln. The last thing we do before
closing the firebox is to gently place her inside, on top of the embers.

In all the times I have done this (over 25 firings at least) only once
did she survive this, usually she is sacrificed to the fire.

It's a sort of pre-history/pseudo pagan ritual we enjoy! My friend who
introduced me to this practice usually makes the figure and she is
very minimal, about 3 or 4 inches tall, with a large belly, large
breasts and just a vague impression of a head, no arms or legs.

In recent years some of the women in the group have created male god
figures who are even more rudimentary, if a little larger...

We usually remember to make these just as we remember we've forgotten
to make any glaze rings to put in, so there is a mass scramble for
lumps of clay. We usually fire to earthenware - maybe 1080C - 1100C
and only recently have we been organised or sophisticated enough to
use cones to guage the heat of the kiln, we mainly rely on the colour
of the fire & the ware and taking out the glaze rings to see if we are
happy with the reduction & melt of the glaze.

So a kiln goddess is a fairly crucial member of the firing team!