Monthly Archives: November 2008

Pots Revealed

After the 48-hour firing, we were tired but eager to see our clay pieces. But we had to wait until the kiln cooled down. Opening the kiln too early would be a mistake as the temperature would drop suddenly and may cause the pieces to crack.  So we nervously waited, waited and waited until the walls came down…
Pots Revealed

We unpacked the clay pieces in an orderly manner so that we could analyze the resulting effects later. We took note of the chamber and the shelf where each piece was placed; the clay body; glazes, slips or oxides; and if it was cocooned in saggar pots. All these variables affect the resulting look of the piece.
Unpacking in the KilnWhere is this pot from?

We were relieved that our collaborative sculpture pieces made it through the firing without any damage.
How to Move This?
Sculpture in 4th ChamberSculpture Piece

However, Elfie’s spires were not so lucky and did not survive the firing intact. Only one out of of the 5 spires was left standing. There were a couple of other casualties too 😦
In the KilnCasualty

After weeks of preparation and hard work, all of us were excited to examine each piece brought out from the kiln. A few of our friends (Mr Wong, Yang Pow Sing, Mdm Poh, Ron, Kuo Wei, Kenny and Karen) also joined in the hustle and bustle to see, touch and discuss the rich variations and textures found on the wood-fired pieces.
Looking at SK's PotIsn't this Nice?
Looking at the Results
As potters, we are very fortunate to have access to a dragon kiln. Mr and Mrs Tan and the Tan family are very supportive and generous in allowing us to use the dragon kiln and the workshop facilities. The Tan family members not only are willing to impart their wealth of knowledge and experiences on wood firing but also worked alongside us during the packing and firing. Much of the logistics like acquiring the wood, firing materials and tools, workers, and taking the necessary fire safety precautions were organised by Mrs Tan.
Mr & Mrs Tan

We treasure this privilege and the onus is on us to keep learning and sharing our wood-firing explorations. Our sole objective is to carry on the tradition of wood firing, a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. After all, how many potters have the opportunity to fire their pots in a 60-year-old dragon kiln?

On the whole, the firing was successful with minimal breakages and we had good salting effects in the third, fourth and fifth chambers. Also, the temperature of 1200 degrees Celsius was attained throughout the kiln. However, the ash effects in the first three chambers were not as pronounced as we had hoped. For the next couple of weeks, we will be busy analyzing the wood-ash effects on the clay pieces in detail. For the time being, here are some interesting pieces revealed from the belly of the dragon.
Face OffFired Pots
SK's Saggar PotTia's Bowls
Yulianti's PotsCL's Pots
Frog GlobsSK's Pot

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Dragon Kiln Firing – Day 3

Day 3, Sunday
The last day of firing was the most exciting of all as the temperature had to mature to around 1200 degrees Celsius before the firing could proceed to the stoke-holes.


08:00am; 1026 degrees Celsius; Firing moved from the fire pit to the 1st stoke hole; Front stoke-holes sealed

Front Stoke-hole Sealed

Prayers offered to the kiln God by Mr Tan and his mother, Mdm Tan (Ah Mah)

Prayer PreparationsOfferings and Prayers
Mdm Tan PrayingPrayer Offerings

10:00am – 1170 degrees Celsius; Firing at 2nd stoke-hole
12:00pm – 1065 degrees Celsius; Firing at 3rd stoke-hole

A peek into the belly of the dragon!

A Peek at the PotsPots Profile

1200 degrees Celsius
Salting in 3rd chamber – 3 kg of salt used for each side stoke-hole

Salting by SKSK Throwing Salt
Salting by TiaJumping Salt Crystals

02:00pm – 1050 degrees Celsius; Firing at 4th stoke-hole

TW & Friend Firing at Stoke-hole

More salting at 4th stoke-hole


03:30pm – Firing Ended! All stoke holes sealed. Hurrah!

Seal All Up

48 hours of firing, 3 pellets of wood, 12 kg of salt, lots of perspiration and hard work…
Now, to wait until the dragon cool down from his fury fire. What awaits for us in the dragon’s belly remains to be seen. What kind of ash effects will be on our clay pieces? The final outcome will only be fully revealed on Sunday, 23rd November. The most interesting moment of all is yet to come. For the time being, we have to be patient and make do with just a brief peek… 🙂

Sculpture on FireFiery Heads

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Dragon Kiln Firing – Day 2 to 3

SK at the Fire-boxSK at the Fire-box

Siew Kuan was busy at work at the fire-box early on Saturday morning.  With the recorded temperature of 579 degrees Celsius at 8.00am, we had to keep throwing more wood so that the heat could reach to our targeted temperature. By now, the fire pit was half-full of burning embers and you can feel the heat just standing a few metres away. At about 10:30am, all the side stoke-holes were closed.

09:00am – 526 deg C
10:00am – 494 deg C
11:00am – 556 deg C
12:00pm – 535 deg C
01:00pm – 511 deg C
02:00pm – 497 deg C

VisitorsMore Visitors

Since it was a Saturday, we also had a number of visitors. Some of the visitors had been to Thow Kwang before and had seen the dormant kiln. So they were pleasantly surprised to witness the activity and the excitement.  Some members of our firing squad became tour guides and explained to the visitors what we were doing and what was happening. One of the visitors, Victor Koo, wrote about his impressions here.

TW at the Fire-boxIn the Shade

We had a difficult time to sustain the high temperature and the temperature dipped at midday. Teck Whui came by to help to build up the fire so that Siew Kuan and Tia could take a break and seek refuge in the shade. We also noticed that one of the pots that was part of the “throat” was broken. The “throat” is a pillar of pots which supports the roof of the fire-box in front of the kiln. It had been 5 years since the kiln was fired so the sudden fire and heat could have caused the pillar to crack and break. So there was much anxiety.

Broken "Throat"

04:00pm – 455 deg C
06:00pm – 463 deg C
07:00pm – 542 deg C
08:00pm – 606 deg C
10:00pm – 683 deg C
11:00pm – 791 deg C

With  Mr Tan’s help, the fire was roaring in the firebox and the temperature hit a high of 791 degrees Celsius at 11pm.

Mr Tan at the Fire-box

That night, Mrs Tan, Ati and Amy prepared a delicious barbecue spread for all of us. Our friends dropped by for the barbecue and they too decided to join Hua Hoong and Tuan Yong in the hot zone. There was much camaraderie by the fire.
HH at the Fire-boxTY Firing
Jin TeckFirers

After 28 hours of firing, the temperature reached 730 degrees Celsius. There were several occasions when the temperature dipped and we had to work harder at increasing the temperature. Tuan Yong, Elfie and Tok will have a task of increasing the temperature to 1,250 degrees by morning when we will fire at the stoke holes.

12:00mn – 730 deg C
01:00am – 600 deg C
02:00am – 550 deg C
03:00am – 490 deg C
04:00am – 520 deg C
06:00am – 570 deg C

Meanwhile, the flames in the dragon’s mouth were devouring every piece of wood thrown in. The dragon sits quietly – giving out an occasional crackling sound as the embers continue to smolder and glow in the dark moonlit night.
Burning Wood

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Firing the Dragon Kiln – Day 1 to 2

Firing started early at 8:00am on Friday. Michael was on the morning shift. At 2pm, the temperature was at 155 degrees Celsius. Tia, Yulianti and Carol continued stoking the fire, keeping a close watch on the temperature. The temperature steadily rose to 180 degrees Celsius at 3:00 pm and reached 360 degrees at 9:00pm.
Front Stoke-HolesYulianti & Tia

We recorded the temperature hourly and made observation notes. The thermocouple was placed at the 3rd stoke hole.

4:00pm – 220 deg C
5:00pm – 261 deg C
6:00pm – 285 deg C
7:00pm – 318 deg C
8:00pm – 328 deg C
9:00pm – 360 deg C

Tok and Elfie came early to help out although their shift was at 2am. In order to sustain and increase the temperature in the kiln, we had to continuously throw the wood into the fire box. It was hard work! So the ladies were happy to get the extra help.
Elfie & Tok PosingWhat's Cooking?

By 11pm, we moved the thermocouple to the 4th stoke hole and opened the 1st, 2nd and 3rd stoke holes. There was a slight dip in temperature, and we kept on feeding the fire till the temperature rose to a high of 400 degrees Celsius at 2am.

10:00pm – 351 deg C
11:00pm – 348 deg C
12:00mn – 364 deg C
01:00am – 365 deg C
02:00am – 400 deg C

Elfie Stoking the Flames

Tok and Elfie continued their watch after Tia, Yulianti and Carol left around 2am. They did a great job at increasing the temperature which recorded 580 degrees Celsius at 8am, Saturday.

3:00am – 462 deg C
4:00am – 498 deg C
5:00am – 500 deg C
6:00am – 500 deg C
7:00am – 555 deg C
8:00am – 579 deg C

Firebox on Day 2

Keep the fire burning!

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Last Day to Smoke and Dry

November Rain!

Rainy ThursdayNovember Rain

With the wet weather we are getting, we had to work harder to build the fire as the wood was damp. For the past three days, we were just building the fire at the fire box to dry the kiln before the actual firing tomorrow. We preheated the kiln to about 100 deg Celsius.

Kiln - Smoking and DryingStoke-holes
TY Putting in WoodBy the Fire Box

Tuan Yong also set up the thermocouple at the stoke hole so that we can record the temperature at every hour during the firing.


We were mainly putting wood in the fire box to feed the fire and watching that the fire does not go out. We had to ensure that the embers were pushed into the centre of the fire box so that the heat will flow upwards to the chambers.

Countdown to Firing – 1 day!

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Smoking and Drying the Kiln

On Monday, the damper wall and chimney were up. Now it is time to seal up the kiln’s front doorway and get ready to smoke and dry the kiln.

Damper & Chimney Walls at 5th ChamberReplica of Chimney Wall
Sealing the Front Doorway IISealing the Front Doorway I

Yulianti started to smoke and dry the kiln from 2:00pm to 7:00pm. This is to get rid of any moisture in the kiln. A crucial process, and more so when it has been raining. We will smoke and dry the kiln until Thursday.

Yulianti at the Firebox
Dragon Kiln - Preheating

Now, our sculptures, pots and clay pieces sit quietly in the dark kiln, waiting patiently for the dragon to come alive and spew its fire and ash.

Countdown – 3 Days to Firing!

Sculptures thru Stoke-hole

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Dragon Kiln Firing

Firing at Night

Here’s a summary of what’s going to take place this week at the dragon kiln – before, during and after the firing. The actual firing will begin at 8:00am, 14th November (Friday) and will continue to the 16th (Sunday), ending at 9:00 3:30pm.

Smoking and Drying
12/11 (Wed), 9:00am-5:00pm
25 deg C – 150 deg C

13/11 (Thurs), 9:00am-5:00pm
25 deg C – 300 deg C

Firing to High Temperature
14/11 (Fri), 8:00am-8:00pm
25 deg C – 500 deg C

14/11 (Fri), 8:00pm to 15/11 (Sat), 8:00am
500 deg C – 850 deg C

Sustained High Temperature
15/11 (Sat), 8:00am – 8:00pm
850 deg C – 1100 deg C

15/11 (Sat), 8:00pm to 16/11 (Sun), 8:00am
1100 deg C – 1200 deg C

Firing at Stoke-holes

Stoke-hole 1
16/11 (Sun), 8:00am-11:00am 8:30am-10:30am
1200 deg C – 1250 deg C

Stoke-hole 2
16/11 (Sun),11:00am-2:00pm 10:30am-12:00pm
1200 deg C – 1250 deg C

Stoke-hole 3
16/11 (Sun), 2:00pm-5:00pm 12:00pm-2:30pm
1200 deg C – 1250 deg C

Stoke-hole 4
16/11 (Sun), 5:00pm-8:00pm 2:30pm-3:30pm
1200 deg C – 1250 deg C

Stoke-hole 5 (next to damper wall)
16/11 (Sun), 8:00pm-9:00pm
1200 deg C – 1250 deg C

After the firing there will be a cooling period before the kiln is opened.

Cooling Period
16/11 (Sun), 9:00pm to 22/11 (Sat)

Unpacking the Kiln
23/11 (Sun) at 10:00am

Come and join in the excitement of a traditional wood-firing and watch the dragon come alive again!

Location: 85, Lorong Tawas (off Jalan Bahar); Thow Kwang Industry Pte Ltd

Click here to see the dragon kiln firing invitation.

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