Helping a little bit in the time of the climate emergency

With the increased concern about climate change, it behooves potters to do their bit. Here at the pottery in Queen Camel, we are now going to stop doing any biscuit firing. This will mean we will stop using our small propane gas kiln.

I started once firing (also known as raw glazing) in the early 1970’s having been introduced to the process by Michael Cardew and by the last traditional potters at La Borne in central France. However, after my working trip to Japan in 1991 I did start to biscuit a small percentage of our production. Jennie has biscuit fired most of her students work for the last 20 years until now.

Once firing

Once firing is the original way of working for potters around the world, twice firing being the invention of industrial production.. The advantage of once firing is that it save both fuel and potters time but also importantly imposes higher standards of making upon the craftsmen and women. This it seems to me to be wholly positive.

One of the reasons I converted to wood-firing (from oil) in 1976 was to work in a more sustainable way. At the time waste wood from sawmills was simply being burnt to get rid of it. For not much more than the cost of transport, I could fire my kilns with a carbon-neutral fuel. However, it was also important to use as little wood as possible so fast firing with wood was also my aim and for that reason, I build Olsen kilns and fired in them for some forty years. Four years ago I used what I had learned over the decades to design and build Dora, a low mass two chamber down draught kiln. This kiln fires easily to cone 10 in around eight and a half hours and uses remarkable little wood. It could be fired faster but at my age it requires more concentration than I am capable of giving it. I think potters could make quite a contribution to cutting back on carbon production by firing faster overall.

We have also changed the heating in the workshop from gas to air source heat pump and for the last two plus years have been driving a second-hand electric car which is powered for about 7 months of the year by the PV panels on the workshop roof. In the greater scheme of things all this is but a small contribution, but it all adds up.

Video of Douglas firing up Dora

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