I spent the months of July and August in Ubud, Bali, first to co-lead the BaliCat soda kiln build workshop, then to stay on during Gail Nichols' soda firing workshop to assist and troubleshoot if need be for the kiln, and finally to make my own work and fire it in the new kiln.
Brian Kakas designed a beautiful kiln, taking into account the needs of the Gaya CAC studio, the local materials, as well as Gail's particular process. We built it using hard brick for the floor, arch base and chimney, but the arch itself was raw, locally made bricks from local clay, whose shrinkage rate we did not know! We got the arch form built and the floor set up before students arrived, and then set them to work on day 1 building up from the floor and putting up the arch.
The build went very smoothly, which was a huge blessing considering we had no time for setbacks: we had to cure-fire the kiln and have it cooled in time for Gail's group to load it with tests on the first day of their workshop, which followed directly on the heels of ours! In fact, from the first cure-firing, that kiln did not cool all the way down for three weeks. Gail's group fired it three times, and as soon as the workshop ended, we had our own work ready to fire, and proceeded to fire two more times.
Every single firing was smooth, timely and efficient. Indonesia's first and only soda kiln fires like a dream.
Brian and I laying out the arch bricks to determine our form shape and the key brick.
The lovely arch form, as seen from the back of the kiln, with the chimney base in the foreground.
That magic moment after we pulled the arch form.
Bricking up the door for the first firing. You can see the very wet cob over the arch, and the spots of carbon on the barely-bisqued door and arch bricks.
Before we could even light the burners, a Balinese blessing ceremony had to be performed. Everybody was present and participated. As soon as the ceremony was complete, burners were lit, and our inaugural firing begun.
Gail, explaining the results from the test firing to workshop participants.