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I had gone over to the Sisters farm to feed the pigs our left overs and fetch some more eggs. As I washed out my swill bucket at the farm tap John appeared, politely asking how my day was going (Kenyans are very polite). It took me a while to notice his right hand held a black bottle, the other some broken shards of bowl. My pots! The bottle must have reemerged today from the giant smoking blue-gum charcoal pit, and I was delighted to see it in one piece. I popped it all in my swill bucket and took it back to the large cast concrete sinks behind my studio to give it a wash and brush up. As I examined the shards, they snap in my fingers like dry biscuits. Not fired then, actually just cooked. I turned to the bottle and applied pressure at the rim and it too snapped. Obviously didn’t get above 600•c in there. Looking at a cross section I could still see the clay centre, untransformed. I took the pieces inside and submerged them in water, wondering how long it would take them to return to sludge. 20140228-145045.jpg



  1. This is such a fascinating story, Jas, and I love the blue-gum charcoal pit – I’d love to know more… What is that? It sounds very evocative and magical. x

    • They chopped down some eucalyptus (blue gum) that were planted everywhere 50+ years ago. They are not native and so no animals live in them, nor plants grow beneath them. So the nuns are slowly getting rid of theirs. When they chop a couple down (a hugely unnerving process involving unprotected/unharnessed men shinning up VERY tall thin trees with chain saws) they bury them very systematically in a big pit and set fire to them then cover them in earth. Looks like a burial mound you’d find in Wiltshire or somewhere. Effectively they make a big oven. So we have a big smoking mound for a good few days. Maybe even a week. Then they uncover these great blackened trunks of wood. And that’s their charcoal for the next year!

  2. Amazing – need more photos! And descriptions! Can we visit you at some point? x

    • You totally can visit! You must! Make the most of the free stay in Nairobi. Plenty to do round here and bigger adventures abound in Kenya . They’ve taken the kiln apart now but I could try and take some snaps. Jxxx

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