Friday, August 31, 2012


I've been plugging away at the kiln site. I have had to stop to get more bricks, silica sand and Hawthorn 40 fire clay for the mortar, etc.  I do have some pictures of the latest progress I've made. 
 Gate from above. There will be removable grate bars for the whole door width front to back, I have the just the front half removed here. I will be able to just walk in to load the kiln.

Door arch is done.

 First support...

 Support frame ready for lath.

Lath on and wall started.

Fire box door frame with pavers.

 Door arch and chamber arch in place. I'll cut and fill the gaps on each side, after. Super duty's on the inside and IFB's on the outside.

 Walls going up, both sides at the same time. I've got angles to the pavers for iron framing to grab on. I have approx. a 5/8" gap between the wall and the chimney filled with Kaowool to allow for the expansion of the bricks.

You can see how high the back top of the old chamber was. With this taper, I will keep the back hot with out over firing the front. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

More progress on the kiln rebuild...

I have more done on the enlargement and reshaping of my manabigama. I had all the excavating done and was ready for stone dust base to put my concrete blocks on.  I took my time and got them all leveled up and ready for the expanded steel mesh or lath as some masons call it.                      

Now I started the layout, in brick as I had everything done on paper, making room for my shelves and the firebox. I made the necessary adjustments and it's looking good.  I moved the level for the grates up one brick as I know it's good to leave enough room for lots of glistening embers without choking the primary air intakes.

Now i can get the brick saw and make up some special mix mortar consisting of 50% fireclay and 50% grog. I'll make it the consistancy of peanut butter for troweling and like a milkshake for dipping. It will setup nicely when we fire. No Portland cement on the inside of the kiln though. I will add 10% to the outside's insulating coating (as a binder) of the course sawdust, fire clay, vermiculite and sand mix.  I will also use chicken wire to hold the insulation together as it will crack. 

I will remove the placed bricks and "mortar" them in place. This was a "dry run" to make adjustments where needed and get the layout right.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Update on the kiln rebuild

 I have the kiln down to the old buttresses and the chimney. There are some serious brick piles. I have the old slab cut and ready to remove.


Back hoe comes in handy! Glad I hung on to it! 

Ready for new base. I'll have a lower fire box floor and step down in the chamber.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This post is over due. I went to Rockport, MA earlier this summer with my wife Mary Ann for a nice, little vacation. While there though, I always paint, one of the reasons I go there. I paint in oils, plein air style... out in the open air, on location, painting what I see. We were walking around town checking out the shops and galleries and I walked into this one gallery and was talking to the owner/artist and admiring his work only to find out he was on his way out the door to go paint in Gloucester. I got invited along on the spur of the moment. How cool is that!? I'm going painting with Bruce Turner. We drove around checking his "spots" and ended up on this wharf that had what he was looking for. There was a pair of huge "sail boats" tied up to the huge dock pointing towards him. They were like this boat that I did take a picture of. I forgot to take a picture of what he was painting.

He set up his easel, that once belonged to either Robert C. Gruppe, son of the famous Emile A. Gruppe, or Emile himself, I can't remember. It is shown in this next picture I got off the internet with Robert painting and in the next one as well with Bruce painting.

Looks like the same one to me. Not all that important though, it was great to learn from Bruce. He shared his thoughts as they came or when I asked. I painted the boat on the dock, getting repaired.

I still have a lot to do, this is just an hour's worth of start.

Here is a picture of our set up.

It was cool to paint with him. I even purchased one of his small paintings as a retirement gift to myself. And a reminder of the day.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I have started the rebuild of my manabigama. I am carefully taking down everything, cleaning all the bricks up and then I am going to rebuild a new, bigger and better kiln. I have a few pictures of the start... of the physical part, as I have been designing, planning and researching for over a year now.


Took the pavers and insulation off the right side.


Saving the kaowool blanket!


Now I added a temporary support (the cover sheet from the steel roof order for the kiln shed extension) for the bricks. Once I start taking out the key bricks, the catenary arch, which is self supporting, will fall in. I don't want them to break or chip, super duty's are not cheap!


Temporary supports.


Almost done with the bricks but still need to take down the pavers below.


Temporary support removed leaving the base section.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

His Game is Mud.....

Article in today's local Post Standard....

Link to article

His Game is Mud: Bill Perrine, of Homer, makes wood-fired pottery using raw materials from the Tully mudslide of 1993

Published: Sunday, July 15, 2012, 2:00 AM
View full sizeBill Perrine's kiln
It had been 16 years since a rain-soaked chunk of hillside gave way, and most of the 55 acres of chewed-up soil was covered once again in vegetation. But the spot of red earth that remained exposed and barren after the 1993 Tully mudslide caught the eye of Bill Perrine, of Homer, that day in 2009.
"I thought it had potential," said Perrine, whose studio is called Split Fire Pottery.
Perrine is a rarity: He is among the estimated 2 percent of studio potters nationwide who dig up and mix a portion of their own clay rather than buy all of it by the bag through suppliers. That's according to Bill Jones, of Westerville, Ohio, a member of the American Ceramics Society and Editor of Pottery Making Illustrated.
"Digging your own clay is very time- and labor-intensive" Jones said. "And most local clay just melts."
Decades of experimentation with pottery and an unusual type of kiln contribute to Perrine's success with clay harvested from the Tully mudslide, which happened April 27, 1993, when a wave of mud slammed into four houses, forcing 15 residents to evacuate and trapping three people in sticky ooze.
For 26 years, Perrine made pottery with a common electric kiln, one in which a switch is flipped, the heat is evenly distributed and the kiln automatically shuts off. Then Perrine purchased a manabigama, a Japanese-inspired kiln that burns wood to create the heat.
It is temperamental but allows Perrine to fire various types of clay and get a finished product that is distinctive.
"The advantage of wood is that pieces of the ash fly up and settle on the pottery to give it a look you don't get with an electric kiln," he said. There is an irregular, speckled glaze preferred by some collectors. "Those spots are tiny pieces of ash".
In addition to the ash freckles, the wood sends up a flame that "caresses" and shades the pottery to enhance the unusual characteristics even more.
"There's an unknown variable when you fire with wood," Perrine said. "You never know exactly what you'll get until the process is finished and you see what the flame and wood did to your work."

View full sizeBill Perrine's finished pottery pieces with 15% to 40% Tully clay from the Tully Mud Slide.
Bill Jones claims there are so few manabigamas out there that "there's actually a map that shows where each one exists in the U.S."
"Most potters would love to have one," Jones said.
It takes two months to prepare the kiln for a new wave of artistry, all the more impressive considering Perrine is a full- time art teacher at Huntington School in Syracuse. Pottery is something he does in his spare time.
The process begins with harvesting three or four types of wood from trees on his expansive property. The different woods vary the ash patterns that fly around in the kiln.
Dozens of bottles, bowls, mugs and casserole dishes are crafted at the wheel and then carefully placed within the kiln before the opening is sealed off with bricks. For two days, the fire is stoked around the clock while the clay roasts, cures and hardens. The end result is as close to ancient pottery of the Japanese and Native Americans as one can achieve in the 21st century.
The anticipation of nature's finishing touch is what inspired Perrine to seek out other natural elements in Central New York to work with.
At the mudslide site, the topsoil is turned upside down and a layer of clay is exposed. Perrine drove around three years ago to see if any of the red earth would be suitable in the relatively low temperature that exists at the back of his kiln.
He wrapped a coil of the clay around his finger and when it didn't crack, he contacted the property owners for permission to take some home.
"They were so helpful. They helped me dig it up and they brought their ATV to get the buckets to the car," Perrine said.
The 8-gallon supply has lasted through two years of firings. Today, one in five items he makes includes approximately 15-percent Tully clay mixed in with commercial clay material; those pieces are identified by the letter "T" stamped on the bottom.
Armed with U.S. Geological Survey maps, Perrine is now in search of the next great mud discovery in Central New York.
"I'm going to try Pratt's Falls to see if I can find a whiter clay from the all the limestone around there," he said. He will look in pools of water where time and water have eroded rock into something fine enough to sculpt.
After all, he said, "there's a large clay seam in Syracuse, which is how Syracuse China got its start."
For more information on Bill Perrine's work, go to To purchase the pottery, go to To see Perrine's pottery on display, his next local event is the Syracuse Arts & Crafts Festival, July 27, 28 and 29 in Colu

Friday, July 6, 2012

Shows vs. Online

Shows vs. Online

Hmmm ... Always a tough one to answer. I like the ability to share my work, world-wide, online. I have sent purchases as far as Australia, Europe and Asia.  I find I have a much better chance of reaching someone that likes my work, especially the unique or more elaborate or outstanding ones, when online. Not that I don't find people that are interested in my pieces like that around here locally, perhaps just not as often. I will always get a few gems or as we call them "gifts from the kiln gods" that are in a league of their own and I do charge a bit of a premium for those. Where I live and the areas I do shows in, there is a mixture of folks with a variety of tastes and I have found though online sales there are some areas that have more of an interest in the arts and appreciate the beauty found in handmade, wood-fired pottery.

I do however, like the ability to meet new people and having a chance to interact with them, a lot of times, answering questions about how a particular piece was made or especially with me being a wood-firer, a lot of questions about the process and my kiln. What caused something they noticed on the piece that they don't usually see in other processes.  I do enjoy sharing what I'm passionate about (can you tell?) with folks that are interested in hearing it. I also enjoy seeing the smile on someones face when they see something that strikes a chord with them. I realize at that moment, that they are seeing what I enjoy seeing in my work. There has to be something pretty special about it, that would make me want to immerse myself in the depths of the work necessary for wood firing. It is a lot of work!!  But when I get those "gifts", it is so worth it. 
There are some pieces that I don't part with, or at least not for a while, up to two years sometimes, before I put it out on there for someone else to fall in love with. There is something about pottery that is very intimate. The touching and using on a daily basis, that creates a special bond. I can imagine there are some readers that are thinking, "This poor guy has lost it", and they are free to think what ever they want of course, but I know there are some that have that "favorite mug", or special bowl or platter for when guests come over. They will put it out as a centerpiece with snacks, veggies and dip or a meal even on it. I think it takes the wisdom that comes with age about taking the time to slow down, even a little, to enjoy life's little pleasures... 

that favorite mug or glass perhaps. I bet some people even keep those pieces out on "display" all the time to enjoy daily as a "life enriching item."  Wood fired pottery is often not "loud", but has a more subtle presence to it. That mug that you pick up to drink from and pause to notice something new on it, the way the ash sprinkled one side... telling the tale of the firing, which side the fire came from or an edge where the color changes.. before drinking from it. 

So, getting back to the age old dialogue of shows versus online, I would have to say... do both!  How else can you get the opportunity for more people to be able to enjoy your work that are beyond "local" and enjoy the interaction and sharing of your "world" with interested and interesting people?