The Laguna Beach School of Art was located adjacent to the Festival of Arts, Irvine Bowl, with several classrooms where instruction was offered in a variety of media. I enrolled in an evening course in ceramics that was taught by Alan Davis. Alan was a local potter with a studio in Canyon Acres. Laguna Beach in those days, 1960s, was a very funky beach town that supported the lifestyle of artists who sold their creations at the summer festivals that included the Festival of Arts, the Sawdust festival, and a host of other venues.
After several semesters of learning how to throw pots I was hooked and decided to make the investment to have a studio behind my home where the garage would become the studio with an ideal space to construct a kiln. The process to get started was fairly simple and would be impossible in the Laguna Beach of 2020. A fee of $3.00 was extracted to secure a Home Occupation Permit from the city. Drawings were submitted showing the kiln design and specifications. An inspector from the city verified that my new natural gas line from the new gas meter was air tight and held the minimum gas pressure over a 24 hour period. The local fire department inspected the kiln and signed off that I would not burn down the neighborhood when firing the kiln.
The kiln worked as expected. Bisque firings required twelve hours to reach the appropriate temperature. Glaze firings failed to reach cone ten (2345º F), the desired finishing temperature for the stoneware I was creating. Alan Davis came out and brought a friend who has also taught classes at the school, Jon Stokesbury. Their mutual conclusion was that I needed to add two more burners to the kiln, making total of six.
Not a simple solution, but a necessary one. The kiln had to be completely dismantled and rebuilt to accommodate three burners on each side. The photos show the original kiln with four burners and the rebuilt kiln with six burners. The exercise was instructive and I made some changes that improved the performance of the kiln.
Since my primary occupation was a bookseller I set about building a ceramics reference library that included essential authors such as Daniel Rhodes, Bernard Leach, and Michael Cardew. I was drawn to English potters like Leach and Cardew. Their approach and philosophy of making pots provided an inspiration that I sought to achieve in my own creations. Years later I visited Cardew’s Wenford Bridge Pottery in Bodmin and Leach’s studio in St, Ives, Cornwall.