Rural firing retreats


Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse yourself in the slower pace of West Sonoma County. Our Atmospheric Firing Program is nestled in the rolling green hills of Occidental, CA on a 100 acre farm and vineyard.

Enjoy farm-to-table dinners while learning about building outdoor kilns and alternative firing methods during the day from the industry's top artists and engineers.


Kilns and Firings



Wood Fired Train Kiln


What is a Train Kiln?

The original design for the train kiln comes from John Neely, Professor of Ceramics at Utah State University.  It gets it name from how the firebox (the fuel center for the kiln) and chimney are purposely constructed at the either end of the kiln and resembles a train engine. The firing results of a train kiln are meant to mimic an anagama kiln, but is much easier to fire. 

What is Wood Firing? 

Wood firing is one of the oldest processes to fire ceramics. Wood is used as the source of fuel to climb in temperature. Up until now CBTB has been using electricity to fire ceramic ware. The kiln gets SO hot (about 2350 degrees F) that the wood ash from the wood actually becomes the glaze on the pottery/ceramic ware! The kiln must be loaded for one day, fired for two days, and then cooled for up to a week. Then it's ready to unload all of your beautiful work! CBTB is doing our part to maintain the natural forests of Nor Cal and will be sourcing wood from sustainable sources (end cuts from wood suppliers, cabinet makers, etc.).  All wood-fired work is dishwasher, microwave, & food safe.

Alternative Firings


What is Pit Firing?

 

Pit firing is the oldest method for firing ceramics, dating back nearly 30,000 years ago.  First, a hole is dug in the ground and pots are placed in the pit with layers of organic matter, combustibles, and other additives and burned. The burning wood creates an atmosphere where smoke and vapor swirl around the pieces in the pit, creating surfaces that cannot be recreated.  Pit fired pottery is for decoration only and not food-safe.

Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram

What is Raku Firing?

Raku is a low-firing process that is inspired by traditional Japanese style of firing.  Pots are heated up rapidly and removed from the kiln while at a bright red heat.  The glowing pots are then placed into metal containers with combustible organic materials. Once the pots come in contact with the containers, the materials instantly ignite and the containers are sealed. This creates an atmosphere which reduces the amount of oxygen within the container, creating totally unique pots that have flashes of bright colors and a crackling effect.  What's FANTASTIC about this process is that you can have a piece of bisque fired pottery come out of a glaze firing in just under 2 hours!  Raku fired ceramics are for decoration only and not food-safe.

Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram


How Can i Sign Up?


Multi-Day Kiln & Firing Retreats


Join us for an incredibly rare opportunity to join in the building of a woodfire train-style kiln with guest engineer Ted Neal! :

Master kiln builder, one of the two kiln designers that actually designed the first wood fired train kiln, Ted Neal, will be leading a workshop to talk about the design, techniques, processes, and the art of how to build a train kiln. During this 7-day Workshop participants will work alongside Ted Neal in the development and building of the kiln. Housing for the week is included in the workshop package along with three group dinners and lunches each day.  Students enrolled in this workshop will be invited to bring pieces in for the inaugural firing of the CBTB Train Kiln in December.

 

What's included in the Train Kiln Building Retreat?

  • In-depth instruction on how to plan, build, and the inner workings of a wood fire Train Kiln
  • 7-day Train Kiln Building Workshop experience with Ted Neal
  • 6-Nights of Housing at the Occidental Lodge
  • Three group dinners and lunches during the workshop
  • The opportunity to fire up to 10 pieces in our first wood kiln firing in December
  • At least one raku firing during the 7-day Workshop (up to 3 pieces per person)

3-Day/1-Night Train Kiln Firing Retreat

Join us for a packed weekend with a community wood firing, picnics, and beautiful farm-to-table dinner and festivities out in the lush rolling hills of Occidental, CA!  The third day of the workshop will take place the following weekend to unload the kiln.

  • Bring 15-20 small pieces (coffee mug sized), and/or up to 5 larger forms. Really tiny pots are welcome too!
    * Must be Cone 10 clay bodies
    * Must be bisque fired
  • Arrive Saturday morning in Occidental and dive right into the action
  • Glaze and prep pieces to be loaded into the kiln 
  • Split into teams and load the kiln together
  • Each participant will get to spend some time inside the kiln loading pieces by hand
  • Learn to prepare kiln shelves and furniture
  • Participants will take shifts, working in teams to feed and maintain the fire while providing plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful countryside
  • Firing nonstop till Sunday evening, 6pm
  • Kiln will be closed to cool for the following week. 

Workshop participants are encouraged to return the following Saturday to partake in the kiln unloading and grand reveal of all the finished pieces. 

 

What's included in the 3-Day Multi-Weekend Wood Fire Retreat?

  • Instruction on how to prep, load, fire, and unload CBTB's Train Kiln
  • Learn how to finish and refine the surfaces of your finished work 
  • Enjoy a farm-to-table group dinner the first night
  • 1 night of housing at the Occidental Lodge
  • 3 lunches and 2 dinners provided
  • 10+ pieces (depending on size and scale) to our wood fire
  • Flashing slips and Cone 10 Glazes to prep work for firing

2-Day/1-Night Weekend Pit Fire and Raku Retreat

Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram

 
Join us for a packed weekend with a community raku & pit firing, picnic, a beautiful farm-to-table dinner and festivities out in the lush rolling hills of Occidental, CA!

  • Bring 10-15 small pieces (coffee mug sized), and/or up to 5 larger forms.
    * Any mid-range clay bodies are welcome
    *Must be bisque fired
  • Arrive Saturday morning in Occidental and dive right into the action
  • Glaze and prep pieces to be loaded into the kiln. We'll be providing a variety of raku glaze options, including crackles, turquoise & copper glazes, naked raku, and horse hair techniques
  • Saturday evening farm-to-table dinner & review of fired pots. Learn to refine your glaze application before Sunday's firings!
  • We'll run 4 raku firings & 1 pit fire over the course of the weekend, concluding Sunday evening.
  • What's included in the Pit & Raku Firing Retreat:
  • 1 night of housing at the Occidental Lodge
  • Lunch on both days and one group dinner Saturday night
  • 5-10 pieces, totaling 1 cubic foot to be Raku Fired
  • 5-10 pieces, totaling 1 cubic foot to be Pit Fired
  • Raku Glazes and all combustible materials and colorants needed for Pit firing

*** Please note that Raku and Pit Fired fired pots are never fully vitrified, making them not food-safe.

Advanced Wood Fire Prep & Techniques: 12-Week Course


Learn the nuances of throwing and building pots, textures, and surfaces for ceramic wood firing!

In this 12-Week Class held at Clay By The Bay SF, students will learn the nuances of throwing and building pots, textures, and surfaces for ceramic wood firing! Over the course of this 12-week advanced course, you’ll study:

  • Creating a variety of forms and shapes that are safe and suitable for wood firing
  • Do’s and don’ts of shapes and attachments when wood firing
  • Specialized surface treatments for leather-hard, bone-dry, and bisqueware
  • Making stands & barriers around your pieces to manipulate the flow of flames & how they change the surface of your work
  • Textural surfaces and shapes to manipulate how flames decorate
  • Creating cups, handled mugs, bowls, pitchers, altered forms, plates, and small sets / miniatures

What's included in the 12-Week ?

  • 12-weeks of instruction for 2.5 hours each week with CBTB's wood fire master Todd Pletcher
  • 2 bags of Cone 10 Clay
  • Flashing slips and Cone 10 Glazes to prep work for firing
  • 5 Pieces to be fired in CBTB's inaugural Train Kiln Firing, totaling 1 cubic foot
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram
Photo by CBTB Member Christine Aiko Beck: @soandso & @aikodesigns on Instagram