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a little bit art. a little bit me.

A little bit art.  A little bit me.

Keep Calm and Educate Yourself

Jennifer Calkins


Did you know that if you are being attacked, people are most likely to look and respond if you yell “fire!” rather than if you yell “help?”  You’re welcome.

So, I fired my kiln last week.  I did what’s called a Bisque firing.  This essentially means it’s the first time the clay is in the kiln after air drying.  A bisque firing allows the clay to harden but still be porous in order for the glaze to stick before the glaze firing (which then “cures” the glaze to the pot).  Now, seeing as I don’t have “formal” ceramics training (other than high school and college classes and some workshops after college), I hope this explanation doesn’t make seasoned potters cringe!  But I also want to make it easy to understand for anyone who doesn’t know much about ceramics.

[Let’s pause here while I indulge in some karaoke as requested by my tiny human child.  OK, so they’re bedtime songs.  Check out the photo below; it shows the different stages the clay I use goes through.  The color changes at each stage; from a gray/white at bone dry, to light pink after bisque fire then to a light tan/cream color after glaze fire.]

(photo: Designs by JJK)

(photo: Designs by JJK)

As mentioned, I don’t have any formal training but I have enough knowledge to make stuff.  What I had no knowledge of up until the last year was how to run a kiln.  Running a kiln has been quite the learning experience.  Which can equal a stressed out me since I have little to no patience.  Luckily for me there’s this thing called the “internet.”  It’s quite the research tool.  Have you ever “googled” something?  Wow, that’s some neat-o stuff!  Don't worry, I haven’t lived under a rock for the last twenty years so of course I’m kidding.  But in all seriousness, there is so much information out there which is really awesome for me.  I mean, can you imagine trying to keep a three year old quiet in a library for HOURS while trying to research how to run a kiln?  Then again that IS what parents did back in the day before the swift advance of technology right?  Am I a lazy parent?  Wait.  Don’t answer that.  I digress.

I was able to find so much information on how to run an electric kiln.  I’ll be honest, I was completely overwhelmed and confused once I started looking for what I needed.  The kiln I have is a hand-me-down (a very gracious hand me down from my high school ceramics teacher and her hubs.)  I was able to find the operating manual for my kiln on the manufacturer’s website (thank you L&L kilns for keeping these online!), along with the operating manual for what controls when the kiln shuts off when it reaches the correct temperature, called the Kiln Sitter.  I also found some supplemental information on running electric kilns in general at (oh my word, they have SO MUCH information on this website, it's not even funny!  I even got a magazine subscription for Christmas), so I have even more information to reference.  I mean seriously, I found a binder-ful.  Behold, the Great Green Fire Binder!

(photo: Designs by JJK)

(photo: Designs by JJK)

After finding so much information and reading all of it…  Wait, I so did not read all of it!  I did read the most important parts though and it actually made a lot of sense.  It almost seemed too easy actually.  Then again, my brain tends to over complicate things when I am trying something new for the first time.  So what did I do?  Well I filled my kiln with bone dry pottery and fired the thing!  And it went really well (all hail the kiln gods!).

[Let’s pause here while I indulge in some karaoke –Round 2!- as requested by my tiny human child.]

That’s not to say I’ve had nothing but perfect firings.  So far my kiln has under-fired (the temperature was lower than it should have been at shut off) once and over-fired (the temperature was higher than it should have been at shut off) once.  So I'll keep chugging along!

So moral of this post?  There are a lot of instances you can simply teach yourself something in order to get the results you want or to pursue your dreams.  If you work hard toward something and push through those moments where you feel overwhelmed with all the new information, you will be rewarded.  And you'll feel quite proud of yourself too!

(photo: Designs by JJK)

(photo: Designs by JJK)

Is there something you've been wanting to try but have been afraid to because of lack of knowledge?  Maybe a hobby, a craft, a DIY project?  Well you obviously have an internet connection if you're reading this post so START NOW!  And if you were or are in the same boat as I was/am then how did you do your research?  What tips and tricks do you have?

Happy Tuesday!