The Dark Forest



“Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri


The Guide



“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri


The Journey


“When I beheld him in the desert vast,
“Have pity on me,” unto him I cried,
“Whiche’er thou art, or shade or real man!”

– Canto 1, Inferno by Dante Alighieri


The Ascent


‘We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars”

– Canto 34, Inferno by Dante Alighieri



Alford D. Wayman
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Creating Authentic handmade pottery in the hills of the Blue Ridge Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.


Annie Reneau – “A trauma psychologist weighs in on the risks of ‘motivational’ pressure during quarantine”

Divine Comedy, By by Dante Alighieri Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth, Divine Comedy English Translation

Frankl, V. E. (1984). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Miller, Donald.  Building a StoryBrand, 2017 (Harper Collins Leadership), Marketing Made Simple, 2020 (Harper Collins Leadership)




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Firing out the Amaco AG40 is great for raku , but I sure had issues with the higher temperatures.  When I was working towards my degree and also was an apprentice at a pottery when I  found a little Amaco AG40 updraft kiln in the classified section of the paper.  The kiln was owned by older gentlemen and hobby potter about two hours from where I lived.  This gentleman had the kiln installed above his garage he was using as a studio.  He had a ventilation fan that came with the kiln and everything was in great condition.  A family member and I loaded this little kiln onto a truck and carefully drove it home.

The kiln had no instruction manual, and we had to learn how to light it from the label on the side.  We had the gas company bring out two tanks and connected both with 2 lines running into one hose with a connection to the regulator.  After following the directions, we were able to fire the burner and bring the kiln to life. That summer, and for the next two years would use the little kiln to run a raku line of pots.  Those were the best summers.  We ran a Spring and Fall show with demonstrations for the public.  It was three days of fire, smoke, and pottery.


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Dusting off the AG40 Updraft

After graduating with a B.F.A. in Ceramics and leaving the pottery, I put all my equipment into storage. I had to find work to pay off student loans.  When my wife and I bought our home, I put in a small clay studio with the encouragement of friends and family who were into the wet shaving hobby.  These friends wanted lather bowls and brush handles.  I hooked up my little Amaco Kiln again and looked online for a manual. Amaco was able to send me an old manual.   I only fired this kiln to a midrange temperature with this kiln once but could not remember the schedule to repeat it.  The manual had a suggested firing schedule, so I started tinkering.

I had the gas company come and hook up a tank large enough to prevent freezing.  The first few firing were terrible simply because I was not able to properly regulate how much gas was going to the kiln’s burners and I had a broken gauge.  I started with a simple bisque fire but knew I had to make some repairs before I went to a full first firing.

At times I was almost ready to roll the kiln over the bank.  I had a whole cone or more difference in temperature between the bottom and top, with the bottom shelf being hotter.  The kiln would also stall out.  So I saved up some money and bought a converter kit.  The kit had a stand with an updraft burner which allowed hookup to a twenty-pound propane tank.  This helped out a great deal because I now had more control over the amount of gas and temperature of the kiln because this had a gauge that worked.

With the conversion kit, I now went back to square one and used the firing schedule out of the manual and completed a midrange firing.  I still had a large temperature difference between the top and bottom.  To fix this issue, I widened the glaze firing range so that the top of the kiln would not fall under fire.  I was able to get a few good pots using this method; that is until I accidently overfired on Christmas day.

Over Firing The Amaco AG40

Meet the Kilns

On Christmas Eve 2015 I prepped and glazed a load of shave bowls that I wanted to have completed as Christmas gifts.  I wanted to wrap those gifts right from the kiln for dramatic purposes and hand them out a few days later. Glazing ran later than expected and the firing stalled out climbing to cone 5/6.  I left it run for an hour longer than usual, but the cone was not bending.  I realized that the gas had dropped off.  After fixing the issue, I went back inside. It was now 3 am Christmas morning, and I had an alarm set to go off every 15 minutes, but instead it went off after another 45 minutes.  While I nodded off with”visions of sugar plums dancing in my head” the little Amaco AG40 was over firing.

I jolted awake and looked at the time and realized the problem, then rushed to the kiln and looked through the peephole.  The bottom shelf was running real hot, and the middle shelf cone was now all the way down.  Thinking I caught it in time I started the 2-hour cooling cycle the manual recommended. All was fine until I opened the kiln about 30 hours later.

The bottom shelf was severely warped with cone 5/6 clay pots melted to it. It appeared that the shelf might have gone to cone 9 or 10.  The second shelf of pots had blister marks in them, so I suspect this shelf reached cone 7/8.  The top shelf was perfect.  I was able the salvage five good shave bowls to give to friends.

All of this was great practice on how quickly things can escalate even if minor adjustments are made.  I am still working out temperature differences, and the little Amaco AG40 needs new bricks and repair work done.  But the kiln has grown on me, and I enjoy firing it out in both reduction and oxidation firings.

Click here for the manual for those who may need it. It’s quite old but had some good information in it.  If you would like to add your experiences or tips concerning the Amaco AG40 or updraft kilns in general, feel free to comment!


Al Wayman
Artist /Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC


While researching the start up the Creek Road Pottery, I quickly came to realize that running a business would be much more than making pots. Months before I even thought about creating a pottery I went through the Business Model Canvas course given by Steve Blank on the Udacity website. The class was very helpful in organizing and researching the many areas of a business that would need developing. One area was developing Revenue Models. Within the many revenue models, there was Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

When I was perusing my degree in ceramics, we learned a lot about art and little about marketing ourselves and the work. At the time, it was believed that the way to make money and sell art was through galleries, trade shows, and studio storefronts. Many who went on to pursue their masters degrees ended up teaching which gave them a position of recognition through the university they were employed. Others would leave the field due to lack of finances, student loan debt, or have to take on other jobs outside the art field to earn a living for themselves. But today all of that has changed, and if the artist can put on a few hats or have processes automated, handed over to paid services, or use applications, the jobs can become manageable once again. Below we will look at some applications that can assist the artist in writing content geared toward SEO.

Yoast SEO Plugin

One of the simplest tools that helped SEO management when creating posts or pages was the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin built for WordPress has a simple install and came with a host of features that helped with content writing, page analysis, Meta and Link elements, XML sitemaps, RSS optimization, and much more. The Yoast SEO also grades the post and ensures that keyword usage in the headings and content. It also gives a list of most used words in the post so that the writer can make changes to up the ranking. This plugin also shows the total word count of content and also monitors SEO for title and descriptions of posts. With the plugin writing content, creating titles, and descriptions much easier.  And with the color coded indicator buttons, it was easy to see if my attempts at SEO were on the right track or not.  However, SEO cannot be adequately managed without better content. With Google’s new standards, the search engine will be far more selective about how it ranks post and information.

The Grammarly App

Another tool that is very useful for SEO, content creation, and management is the Grammarly program. Grammarly has a free version that installs as a plugin to most browsers and also has an extended paid version with many added features. These features allow the user to make informed decisions about how to use words, grammar, punctuation, and flags wordiness. It also claims to enhance vocabulary and grammar usage. As Grammarly flags issues, the user can remember how to use words or punctuation.  Also, there is a built-in search that can detect plagiarism and alert the writer or content provider that a text was copied.  If you have written content outsourced, it may be wise to paste it in Grammarly to see if the text is original or copied.

 Shopify SEO Manager

Artists who sell online have plugins that one can install with the store packages.  One of these would be the Shopify SEO Manager. Since SEO is important to ranking and sales, stores like Shopify, Etsy, and others have both plugins and free classes and resources on how to post items and create descriptions for products. Many have Google result simulators, page speed integration, site map management, and SEO issues scan built in. Many times when creating a post or descriptions, the artist would fill up the meta tags with as many keywords as possible.  Now with the new Google SEO standards, these types of loaded fields will have a lower ranking.  Even though these plugins can be somewhat costly, they offer simple solutions to the user to alert them if they are compliant or not. Users also post case studies, which can be very informative. Although some of the studies are sensationalized, one case study that I found very helpful was the creation of ThinkPup.

So as one can see even though it may take some time to learn SEO, there is much more help by the way of applications and plugins that can make writing content and listing products much easier for the artist.  These programs also can not only save time but take the guess work out of SEO, and if keywords or phrases meet the search requirements. The artist is then able to use some of this free time doing the things they enjoy, which is making quality art for his customers.

By  Al Wayman