Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Peach Bird

The wheels of progress are turning ever so slowly around here for some reason. Perhaps it's the heat. Gary said it was going to be cooler today, down to 105 from 106 F (down to 40.5 from 41.1 C). That's sure a relief.

I'm trying to load my kiln efficiently and I am wondering if it's too small or my brain is too small? Perhaps I could learn to load the kiln more efficiently by making a diagram of the shelf size and planning where to place the pieces ahead of time. Does anyone do that?

Oh, I do remember Meredith of Whynot Pottery saying her ware cart shelves are the same size as her kiln shelves. Now that's a good idea! Perhaps I can cut out some cardboard templates the size of my shelves and predetermine where I will place the pieces before I load them in the kiln.

An octagon shelf is hard to organize with wares. Large platters and free form bowls don't fit well, cups and mugs fit the best. Perhaps I can concentrate on making pieces which will fit efficiently on each shelf of the kiln, does anyone do that? Even though my platters and free form bowls take up a lot of room, I like making them. I guess I could stack some more pieces inside the bowl for a bisque, but I had a bad experience with this before. My platters with things stacked in them cracked in a bisque. Looking at the top photo, what I need is part of a shelf to place under the bowl and then I can put something small like a spoon rest or two under the bowl. I can always squeeze pendants into leftover spaces.

Now that I've drawn up a few octagon shapes and looked at them and thought about it, I see what the problem is. Right now I have a few odd shaped pieces and I have to fire them all. Once I get all this work fired I can think in advance and make some multiples of pieces and I'll be better able to fit them in the kiln when I fire them. Whew, I'm glad I wrote all this down, now my creative juices are flowing. I just had to give myself time to think about it instead of rushing the process.

When I picked up some clay last month, I bought a few new tools. My wire had a bur and it kept cutting my hand so I was due for another one. I used to have a few others but they seem to have disappeared. I got a small syringe because I thought I could do some detail slip work with it. I have a large syringe I found at the dollar store, of all places, that I really like. This small syringe has the tiniest tip and it's curved, I might have to sieve my slip to get it to pass through the hole.

Then on a whim I purchased a rubber rib. [Notice the rubber rib is a Kemper made in Taiwan. Is anything made in America? Let's see, I know pottery is made here]. I have metal and wood ribs but have never used a rubber rib before. Sometimes the metal rib cuts into the clay so I thought I would try one of these. I was thinking I could use it to smooth the surface of clay slabs. What a minute, I remember Cynthia Guajardo of Colorado Art Studio uses one for that. Maybe I could apply slip into depressions in the clay and then scrape it off with the rubber rib. What do you use a rubber rib for?

You can see I have lots of unanswered questions, so advice and comments are most welcome here. Look at the peach bird, I guess peaches aren't always perfect, kind of like me. All this imperfection sure makes life interesting, doesn't it?


  1. I almost always listen to the radio when I load my electric kiln, for some reason the measured tones of the National news or morning programme takes the edge off my frustration as I try to fit round pegs into an octagonal hole!

    I get heaps more things into a bisque firing than I used to. I do stack bowls and put small things inside big things. I take care to make sure that nothing can be trapped when clay shrinks (especially if I am firing clays with different shrinkages in the same load), and also think long and hard about the load that foot rings of pots are taking.

    A template of a kiln shelf is a good idea so that you can try things out in your studio as you make them.

    I guess you have to balance out the need to create something new and challenging, with the need to fit things in and justify power bills!

    A small kiln can make you small in vision, or it can be liberating!
    You could become highly experimental and take risks as only a few pots are involved, as it is not such a catastrophe if things don't work out.

    Please be liberated by your small kiln Linda, enjoy it, be excited by the possibilities that it offers. Be prepared sometimes just to fire one, two, or three things (I know that power is expensive, it is dreadful here too!).

    Having a kiln is an adventure, and a partnership. No kiln is perfect, but there are possibilities to be explored.

  2. Linda -- I know lots of potters who make work for a kiln load - specific pieces that will fill the kiln perfectly. I also know folks who just make some small stuff that they know they can fit around their larger pieces to fill the kiln.

    What cured me from any frustration loading my own kiln was working as an apprentice for the last two years at a community clay studio. It's so odd to load other folk's work -- and making it all fit -- well that's truly like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It has made loading my own work so much easier.

    When I first looked at the peach I thought it was a rib!! But it does look like a bird -- very interesting!

    Can you get mud tools where you are? Do a google search on 'mud tools' -- they are wonderful!

  3. I am happy you told me it was a bird I saw something else first!
    LOL- I love peaches and yours look so good!
    There is some thought when we load a glaze kiln. There has to be it is so big.
    But we let the wares pile up until the bisque kiln stars calling my name. I know when the carts are getting full it is time to load.
    We do make a certain amount of production ware which makes some of the kiln loading go fast. All the same size and shape close to the same height.
    Quick 6 inches or 4 1/2 inches. Other pots take a little more thought.
    I do like the cut board for shelf size and I have one for the gas kiln and use one for the electric one as well.
    Just make sure you don't throw only for your kiln. You have to make sure you are throwing for you as well.

  4. I second Judy's recommendation of the mud tools flexible ribs. They come in different levels of flexibility and different sizes. Though I mostly find them invaluable when throwing (I usually throw with two ribs), I also use them a lot when doing handbuilding (smoothing slabs, cleaning up joints). Designed by a potter for potters! :-)

  5. I have to agree on the mud tools. With all the hand building you do, you should really get one of the red ones. Very soft and flexible, I use it for all of my hand building. I have some like the one in your photo, but I use it on the wheel, the edges are too sharp for my taste for hand building. I load kilns every Monday at Claymakers and it is so scary to load a bunch of other people's work. It's fun though, I compete with the studio coordinator on how creative we can get with stacking. I should take photos of some of the crazy stacking we have done. Like the mutant peach, what are you feeding your plants!

  6. Hi Peter, you always have such sage advice, thank you. I think part of my frustration stems from the fact I have let things pile up and now I have a backlog. In the future I will not let this happen. In my mind I think I know I won't create just to fit the kiln so I will just have to fire more often to get things fired. In fact last night lying in bed I was thinking of a large flat piece I want to make and I know it will not fit in this kiln and was wondering where I could take to be fired.

  7. Hi Judy, I am thinking of some things I can make just for this kiln and actually in the past I just made one original and then another and just recently thoght about repeating some of my work. I loaded the kiln at school for four years, but we used the large gas kiln with square shelves and that was so much easier. I was pretty creative with that one, this one is just so much different.

    Now I am wondering what everyone else will see in the peach.

    Mud tools I will have to see where I can find them. I have two suppliers I order from via the internet too, they may have them , thanks so much for your advice.

  8. Hi Meredith, what did you see? Gary saw something different too. Ha! I should have made this a contest - what do you see in the picture? Ha!

    These are the Faye Elberta peaches which are just now getting rip. We also have Red Haven but we already ate all those. Yum !

    I know I won't be able to control myself and only make pieces just to fit the kiln - you know me I'm always going off on one tangent or another. Thanks for your help. Some of what I learned in the past is refreshing itself in my mind.

  9. Hi Miri, wonder why I never saw the mud tools before, I need to hang out at the supply stores more often, thanks so much I am definitely checking into them.

  10. Hi Gary, thanks, that was a slip transfer where I draw on a piece of paper and put slip on and then transfer it to the clay - I have to try that some more.

  11. Hi Tracey, no wonder I have always had so much trouble smoothing my seams and everything I should have had these tools a long time ago. I am so glad I posted about the rubber rib here. I always loaded at the college for the past year and I never felt scared to load others work. Funny the only pieces I ever broke where my own. I just handled stuff very gingerly. This kiln is so much different - not big and not square. I only use compost and slow release fertilizer. Maybe it's the ditch water? I think the mutant peach was up against another peach and the two couldn't form fully and so I only got one. Who knows - what do you see? HA! thanks so much.

  12. Good post Linda. I thought the peach looked like a chubby cheek Raven face! Glad I'm not the only one learning to get the hang of loading the kiln puzzle. I have to agree with Peter, enjoy the small space -you won't feel guilty like I do when I'm only able to fire a half loaded kiln... It seems like I either have way too much and impatient to fire or not enough pieces and am impatient fire!

  13. Hi Cindy, thanks. I kind of thought the beak looked like a raven's beak too since it is humped slightly and curved down. Once I get this down pat, I don't think I'll be feeling guilty at all. I keep my eyes out for inexpensive kilns on craig's list because if I found a larger or smaller one I would pick them up. A smaller one would be great for individual pieces - wonder though about the electricity - if it is more cost effective to fire larger kilns, probably so. I wouldn't mind a 110 test kiln though.

  14. Linda: check out this kiln load
    how's that for a full load!? I worked with a couple of people that spent some time at Penland and this is how they would load the kilns, some of the students would see the load and freak about their pieces. Nothing ever broke though.

  15. Hi Tracey, that's quite some kiln load of Bringle's, I left a post there, thanks so much for leaving another post. We have people coming to look at the house tomorrow in the middle of the day so we are running ragged sprucing up again. I will be glad when this is all over. thanks again.

  16. I'm less careful about loading my bisque kilns now a days, thanks to teaching the last couple of years. Not that I didn't take care of the work that I fired, but I had to cram so much in that I really got creative. I stack pieces of similar size/shape, put smaller items in larger ones, and I do save the top shelves for platter/plate type things because the kiln posts can get in the way.

    I have been known to unpack a kiln and repack to get everything in - bummer to do, but sometimes it can't be helped.

    I fourth the mud tools - my favorite ones are the green for compressing and red for smoothing. I sometimes use the metal rib, but only for certain types of things. They can leave a nasty cut if I'm not careful.

    I'm enjoying the Colorado peaches right now - delish. This one, is ahem, interesting!

  17. Hi Cynthia, I think if things are similar they can be stacked. I think what happened with my flat platters is heavy pots were stacked on them several high and they couldn't shrink and that made them crack. Somehow I think big flat platters that are slab built are touchy. I checked out the Mud Tools site - they are cool I'll be ordering some soon. Gary said the same thing about that peach, but I see a bird head and beak - a freak of nature. Good luck with your move.

  18. More backing up for the mud tools Linda, I agree with Cinthia, I love my big red one to smooth clay, don't have a green but have a yellow, and the metal I use to cut small pieces or often to soften clay when other ribs are misplaced or hiding from me. They have them at Aadvark if you need some let me know and I can mail to you. Great post, and that peach looks delicious no matter what shape.

  19. Hi Yolanda, I got on the Mud tools website and I can get them from them directly when I save a few more dollars. I ocasionally order from Aardvark, in fact I ordered mason stains from them recently. Thanks so much for your kind offer. Hope you are doing well. How is your knee doing, did you have surgery?

  20. Hey Linda, I think that might be the first picture I have seen of your kiln! Nice Kiln. You'll get into a flow of loading once you do it on a more regular basis or for the up coming shows? Are u going to any in your blog that show coming events? Can't wait to see your glazed work!'s making me wait, keeping me waiting.....

  21. Hi Mary, I posted a long time ago about my kiln, thanks. Got it through Craig's list for a song. Yes I am going to both of those shows, my husband will have to man one as they are both on the same day. I have a few commercial glazes for Cone 5/6 then I will start mixing my own. We shall see.


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