Loading kilns is like completing a complex 3D jigsaw, where you have a range of shapes, a fixed volume and a few ground rules. I like to keep the two stacks as similar as I can, so there is an evenness that is across the kiln. Vertically I alter the densities and spacing around the work to encourage the flame across the shelves. I also use a technique called ramp stacking that places lower pieces on the front edge of the shelf (closest to the firebox) and the tallest work on the rear edge (next to the flues), so the flame has an easy way into the shelf, but has to work its way out.

Ramp stacking on the bottom shelf and second from the top shelf.

I’m also careful when loading the floor of the kiln not to get too close the the flue entry as that can affect the pull of the kiln and how the flames flow around the bottom shelf.

Keeping a space between the flues on the right and the pots

The different shelves can also have the gaps between the pots altered to help encourage the flame across the shelf. My shelves are 470mmx 470mm and the flame path is more of a cross draft than a down draft The bag wall has strategic holes in it to let some of the flame (and soda) to pass through the wall and directly heat up the shelves behind it. When I’m making my pots I am thinking ahead to where they’ll likely end up in the stack and I use complementary shapes to control the flame paths – so bowls and wide bottom jugs fit together.

Bowls and wide bottom forms (like tea caddies) help control the flame path

This last bit is about the flowers that I always place fresh on the kiln when I light up. It’s about taking a moment to recognise that a lot of work has gone into getting to this point and that the firing process is special and transformative, deserving of respect and focus.

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