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a little bit art. a little bit me.

A little bit art.  A little bit me.

One Step Closer

Jennifer Calkins

So about two weeks ago I unloaded my kiln.  I had high hopes for this one but at the same time I was a little leery about how the pieces would turn out since I had a bit of a hard time while glazing.  So when I unloaded the kiln I was about half happy and half disappointed.  Smile.  Frown.  Smile.  Frown.  Smile.  Frown.

First reason?  It under-fired slightly.  I’ve read a few things about this and I am pretty sure I just need to use a different pyrometric cone in the kiln sitter; this is what makes the kiln turn off so I need to go to the next temperature higher.  Here’s your learning for today:

pyrometric cone   noun
1.  (in a kiln) a triangular piece of material that indicates by bending or melting that a certain temperature has been reached.
(Photo: Designs by JJK) CONES!

(Photo: Designs by JJK) CONES!

You’re welcome.  I actually read this tip prior to ever running my kiln but since I read it AFTER I already purchased the cones I shrugged it off to see what happens if I don’t do that.  What’s weird is that when I bisque fire my kiln typically over-fires slightly.  But when I run a glaze firing it under-fires.  This has happened the last two full rounds of firing so I am thinking it’s just a quirk of my kiln.  Part of the learning curve is learning these quirks.  Solution?  Buy the right cones at the next highest temperature!

The next reason has to do with the first reason.  Glazes are specially formulated (a whole lotta chemistry involved there.  I didn’t take chemistry in high school.  Science + me = BLAH!  Which is why I don’t make my own glazes…too many chemicals and a whole lot of thinking.  I’m sure I could do it but I just don’t want to bite off and chew that block of research yet!  I digress!)  Every glaze out there has to be fired to a specific temperature: low, high and everything in between.  So when my kiln under-fires the glazes don’t reach their true potential.  Throw in the fact that I noticed a few of my glazes weren’t mixed properly when I was applying them and the colors just didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to.  Sell-able?  Sure.  What I wanted?  Not quite.

Then there was the reason I don’t like to admit.  I made a huge mistake on four pieces.  Ok Eight.  I made four hanging planters and not only did I put too many holes for the rope to hang them (I made four rather than three and I feel that’s too many) but I completely forgot to clean out the holes before putting them in the kiln.  You can’t run rope through the hole if it’s all full of glaze!  Easy solution would be to simply drill the glaze out of the holes right?  Not so fast batman!  Regular drill bits won’t work, the glaze is too hard.  So I went to my go to ceramics arts daily website and searched while my face turned into a scene from a horror movie because I figured there was no solution.    Yep.  Thankfully they had the answer and my face turned back to it’s angelic state (much to the joy of my husband I am sure.)  I needed diamond drill bits to cut through the glaze.  I was super frustrated because that’s just one more thing I needed to do, when after a glaze firing I really shouldn’t need to do anything, the piece should be done.  Right?!  So I had to spend extra time to run to the store, pick up drill bits then actually drill all 16 holes out.  Luckily they were only $8 so it wasn’t much of an extra expense. 

(Photo: Designs by JJK)

(Photo: Designs by JJK)

Then WHOOPS, I dropped one of them while I was drilling.  It's important to keep the drill bit wet while drilling to prevent overheating so I was constantly using a sponge to add water to the small area.  Pots are curved.  Water follows curve.  Things got slippery.  Arg!  Not my finest moment and they are still sitting on my kiln waiting to be finished because I was pissed off at them (I know, I know, user error, not the fault of the pot.)  All the holes are drilled out now but I need to pick up some rope and finish them.

(Photo: Designs by JJK)

(Photo: Designs by JJK)

Wow, that took a lot of words to explain.  I’ll keep the next one short!  The other four pieces I made a mistake on were bowls.  I knew how I wanted to glaze them, like bowls I've made in the past, but at the last second changed my mind to use turquoise on the insides and rims rather than white.  Big mistake.  They are not awful but since the new glaze I used on the outside has a purple tint to it, they look a little weird to me.  I LOVE the glaze on the outside though so YAY for that!

(Photo: Designs by JJK) New bowls; shoulda coulda woulda glazed the insides and rims white!

(Photo: Designs by JJK) New bowls; shoulda coulda woulda glazed the insides and rims white!

Let’s end this on a positive note, shall we?  The rest of the pieces turned out well.  I made three pie plates that turned out awesome, some mini vases that I’ll reveal to all after I make some wooden trays for them (in progress now!) and I even made some lanterns that turned out pretty well.  I still feel this kiln load was filled with “practice” pottery but now that it’s finished I am able to distinguish what direction I really want to go, what works and what doesn’t and what glazes I am leaning towards.

Lesson learned?  Patience (again!)  I knew going into this kiln load that it was more practice work so I need to remind myself of that fact and be patient while I refine my work.  Though I was feeling disappointed at first, I am feeling better now that the direction I want to take my work is clearer.  I just needed some time to think about it!

p.s. you can find my latest pottery in my portfolio on the home page and also on my Facebook page