Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kiln Diary #2- Bisque load

     Having to restock the mug population takes a long time.  First I have to throw, trim and handle all the different styles.  Then I have to paint them.  I usually try to conquer only 2-3 different designs a day with about 10-15 mugs to show for it.   While I'm adding to the mug collection, I'll branch out onto a larger bowl or platter once my wrist becomes accustomed to the lines and I've tuned my eyes into the space the creature inhabits.  Sometimes a creature will get away with me, like the hummingbird, and I'll spend two days doing varieties of poses and dishware (they were battling ferociously at the feeder outside my studio window after all). The bluebirds too usually catch me in their sway, what with their extra painting required (lest I get too speedy in my production line!).
    This week I'm working on the second shelf of mugs, filling the kiln as I create them and stacking the accompanying platters and bowls that are accumulating on the studio shelves.  The mugs pack so densely in the kiln, it always takes longer than I expect to fill it!  I choose larger accompanying platters so that the rest of the kiln will more rapidly become sufficiently occupied.  But I have to complete the mug shelves first.
    Talking to my sister on the phone while painting a series of apple trees, I started to draw a pair of bluebirds dangling a robot from its arms.  Before getting too detailed, I carved the robot off though, figuring I'd spend so much time on the bluebirds, the robot would just make a waste of it.
     Then I told Kate what I was doing.
     "Ooh yeah" she said, "and have one of them poking his eyes out!" and with even more glee, "and the other one can be jamming his foot in its ear!"
     So as our conversation shifted to drones and whether or how soon they will be used domestically, her husband, her kids, Louie and Breaking Bad, I started on a new platter.
      I finished the coloring after I got off the phone.

Here is the battle, still dusty and before bisquing.  Picture taken with my dusty phone on my work chair.  The colors will darken and contrast further after the glaze firing.
   I think the robot lost.

ADDENDUM: -  The final product:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kiln Diary

I've been taking photos of the kiln load as I unpack it and posting it on facebook, but the images get lost among the rest of the facebook flurry.  So I've decided to log the photos here, so I can write commentary and keep track of developments...

Here's the latest load, most of which sold at Kings Mountain this past weekend or was part of Sara & Jerry's wedding registry.

And here's the load before that (minus a shelf-full of mugs which doesn't really look that exciting from above):

This cone, set in place when loading the kiln for firing,
holds up a switch for the kiln
It gives you a sense of the volume of the kiln.

   To fire one glaze load, I turn the kiln on Low for 3.5 hours, Medium for 1 hour, then it takes another 10 for the kiln to get hot enough at High to melt the kiln sitter cone and turn it off.  Then I have to leave it alone for 15 hours, minimum, and slowly cool it after that so I can unpack and start again.  Most people seem to have computer controlled kilns these days, but there's something extremely attractive and natural about the melting of the kiln sitter cone, controlling when the correct temperature has been reached.   Very easy to fix too, unlike the computer.  Same with the electric elements.  If the firings start to take too long, I can test the voltage to find a break and fairly simply replace them.
      Bisque fires, the kiln firing before the pots get glazed, take just as long to warm up but are on High for only about 6 hours, depending on how much moisture is in the air and the clay.  As always, chaos reigns supreme.

When the kiln gets to the desired temperature,
the cone melts and the switch drops,
turning off the kiln,