Shortly after returning to campus at the start of the year, Studio Technician and ceramic artist Sam Chumley got to work – outdoors.
Calling on fellow ceramic artists on the Arrowmont staff including Bill Griffith (outreach and partnership liaison), Rebecca Buglio (program and studio manager), and Gracie Herbert (supply store manager), Sam organized a test for one of Arrowmont’s three atmospheric kilns. Specifically, he planned a low-temperature soda fire test.
A typical soda fire places ceramic pieces in a kiln and introduces baking soda (sodium bi-carbonate) and soda ash (soda carbonate) when the kiln reaches a certain temperature. The soda compound is vaporized, and carried throughout the kiln on the flames – creating a glaze that produces unique surfaces and textures as the chemicals react to the inherent compounds of the clay. Often the colors are rich pastels; sometimes shark-like gray textures; at all times, a discovery for the artist once the firing is done.
Sam describes the inspiration and process for testing low-temperature soda kiln firing:
“As with any atmospheric firing process, low fire soda requires a bit of experimentation and research to understand the process of the firing and possibility of aesthetics.”