Friday, March 1, 2019

How to fire micaceous clay beads

I learned how to fire micaceous clay from Martin Prechtel  and Felipe Ortega while attending Bolad's Kitchen, Martin's  school of spiritual ecology in New Mexico.  The process is a beautiful experience combining practicality and ritual.

I recently made some micaceous clay beads to use as embellishments on several new styles of frame drums that I am making.  The unfired beads are sparkling with hope for a good transformation.

Set up is important because I understand I am building a house for fire to live in, and I want it to be well made.  The ritual tobacco bundle is visible here, and even if it won't be seen in the rest of the story, it will have done its good work to greet fire.

The foundation of the house sits down into the earth, with all the organics and large stones removed, since they did not agree to be part of the kiln.  I am using concrete and fire bricks for the walls, with air spaces at each corner.

The second story of the house is fire brick positioned on two walls, after a mat of paper topped with a grid of cedar kindling is arranged inside.  The paper extends through each corner as these will be what is lit to begin the firing.

Next the beads, which have been drying on lengths of copper wire, are placed across the two fire bricks and held in position by two concrete bricks that are pierced with holes.

The last step in the house construction is the roof, which begins with two pieces of kindling placed through the holes in the concrete brick.  These become the supports across which another layer of kindling is placed.

The micaceous clay beads are small and the risk of this process is to build a fire that is too hot. I make a tobacco offering to the fire to honour its presence and encourage it to be just right: not too hot but not too cold.  Once the paper is alight and the kindling starts to burn, I sing to the fire.  Although I was taught not to fuss with things once the fire enters its house, this time a quick adjustment is necessary.  The roof was too high and so the kindling was repositioned.

It is so exciting, as the fire starts causing the house to collapse, to see a glimpse of the clay beads inside.  They are a rosy colour rather than black, which is a good sign. And I keep singing.

I understand to wait until all the active flame has died back, before I stop singing and remove the beads from their placement on the bricks.

A beautiful experience indeed!  Only a few beads became over-fired; most are a sparkling testimony to my excellent teachers of so many years ago.  Thank you Martin and Felipe from the Journey Oracle.