Friday, August 20, 2010

Reality Pottery

You have arrived on the front lines of reality pottery. I've got some complicated pieces to load into the kiln and there is a fair amount of trepidation involved. In the back of my mind I'm thinking there could be some mishaps. Perhaps every artist has this feeling when loading a kiln. How will my work turn out, how can I make it better, what will I do if it fails, how will it be received.

Nitty gritty sinks in. I have one vase that's almost 16.5 inches tall. I have put one kiln shelf on the bottom of the kiln with a scant one inch post, and the vase just fits in under the lid. I can fire that one myself, that's a load off my mind. I place a long level across the top of the kiln just to make sure. It has a quarter inch to spare. Is it too close, time will tell. Now for some of the others.

My saguaro vase is thick and heavy; I made it that way intentionally. I wanted a vase heavy enough to hold tall flowers without falling over. It's been drying slowly for months. I wonder if it will make it through the firing without exploding? As I carry it out to the kiln I notice a little serendipity has happened; the base has dried with the bottom arching up and creating it's own foot so air will circulate underneath and it's not tipsy. I am happy as a clam as I set it on the kiln shelf.

Then there's a vase that leans; it leans quite a bit. I made it that way on purpose; wondering how far can it lean and still stand upright? I place this one so it will lean on a shelf and not against another pot, if it fails during firing.

The shell basket with it's small feet has dried on top of two by fours and this is the first time I've taken it off. The feet now seem small; I'm hoping they hold up under the weight of the piece. I measure the length and width and height and determine it just fits in the spot I have for it. I set it in the kiln and it's OK. Whew!

I hand build all of my work and I mostly make one off pieces, so each piece is an experiment in itself. This will be the second load of three that are experiments. If they all make it, then I review, refine, re work, and make more.

I add another shelf on the left and put a platter and a covered cheese dish and some test tiles with slip deco. Then there's a cake pedestal I dried upside down on a plate with little wads holding up the top. It dried fairly flat but with little sprigs and a rim on top I decide to fire it right side up. Will it fire without drooping?

I knew one of the feet on my teapot didn't hold but when I picked it up two weren't holding. I intended to put them in the kiln and set the teapot on top of them. Later I could glaze them on. Then as I picked up the teapot a third one fell to the ground and shattered. As I held the teapot in my hand, I had to quickly launch into plan B. I decided to remove the last foot; of course it wouldn't come off. I gently set the lid of the teapot aside and ever so gently laid the teapot on it's side. I went to get my needle tool to saw off the fourth foot.

Hey, how did my hair get so dark, it used to be white blond, then dish water blond, then reddish brown, now it's almost black with a few strands of gray. Oh well, maybe I'll get it done before my trip if I have time. One of my blogging friend's, Tracey, just got all her hair cut and dyed too, something must be in the air about hair.

I'm sweating in the 95 degree heat in the garage sawing on the foot for almost ten minutes to get it to come off. I've really got to learn how to attach all the feet just like this fourth one. I'm a self taught artist and everything I've learned I've either read in books or blogs, taught myself by trial and error, or asked other potter's how to do. While I'm sawing the fourth foot off, in my mind I've developed several plans for different feet. So I decide to fire the teapot the way it is now and add feet after firing, and they might be metal.

Finally I have the whole kiln loaded. The last piece I put in is my knapsack maquette. Once it's safely placed I softly close the lid. If you click on the link you can read why I blog. I hope someone can learn from my blog posts, just like I learn from other's blog posts. It's not over yet, though. The next time I open the lid I'll raise it ever so slowly too. Then I'll have glazing to do and another firing and hopefully a few nice pots to show you.


  1. Good luck! I'll keep my fingers crossed!
    I'm very curious how you will glaze the tall vases, they are so nice!

  2. Hi Monique, thanks so much, the tall vases, the shell basket, and the geometric shaped vase are cone 10 clay, so I will see if my old reduction glazes are still good to use and take them to another kiln to be glaze fired.

  3. hey luck with all that..the thick and large forms i now steam on low overnight sometimes we have student work and rather than cracking things by firing too fast i steam overnight... :P happy firing...

  4. " In the back of my mind I'm thinking there could be some mishaps."

    Can't tell you if EVERYONE feels this way, but I for one definitely do too... ;-)

    Best of luck with your firing!


  5. hey linda- are you going to go Red?
    I have to be gone this am but later I will send you a recipe that might help keep your feet on.
    Don't let me forget!

  6. Hi Ang, thanks, I may give a soak at the beginning just for that one vase, although it has been drying for months now. with the humidity here who knows if it picks up a little each day even when dry.

    Hi Miri, thanks, hopefully the teapot feet are the only mishap.

    Hi Meredith, thanks, no not red, almost wondered if you meant red glaze at first, sometimes I'm kind of dense and takes things too literally. Wonder if the recipe is with vinegar. I know Michael Mahan said he was using it and I said I was going to but never got any, need to get some, I had cider vinegar, but I thought that might not be the same. And I know that Lana uses a magic solution too, I know I have her booklet here somewhere. Can't wait to hear what your recipe is.

  7. hi linda, 1/4 inch i plenty of room. when i was doing vases i was pushing the limits of the height of my kiln too and i had some with just a whisper between the pot and the lid and never had any problems.

  8. The anticipation builds... Gotta throw a handful of question marks into every load, that's definitely part of the fun eh?

  9. As you know, Linda, I am not a potter, but I so love reading your thoughts as you process your work. I think what happened to the saguaro vase is very cool. Sometimes, the Universe steps in and takes care of things for us. I suppose it always would, if I'd just get myself out of the way. :) I look forward to seeing your new pieces. I always enjoy the changing images on your sidebar, showing some of your new work.

  10. Hi Jim, thanks, I'll keep that in mind for the future. I figure it will shrink a little before the glaze fire and then all will be ok.

    Hi Zygote, thanks, yes, you hit it on the nose, I do like the questions marks in each piece, it really is the best part of the fun for me.

  11. Hi Teresa, thanks, I am glad someone enjoys my post, especially since it was so long this time, but I keep thinking back on when I first started working in clay and wanted to know so much about everything and was afraid to ask too many questions, so I hope someone benefits from these. Glad you are enjoying the pieces on the side. I figured my regular readers might be getting bored with the same old thing so I changed it up a bit.

  12. Looks like you have your work cut out for you. That's so cool about the saguaro vase, hope it makes it through the firing. Have a great weekend!

  13. I love when everything fits in so nicely (and especially when I don't break the greenware). I usually start each bisque with a long-1st element on, lid cracked-for 6 hours or so.

    Looking good!

  14. Hi Kari, thanks, that's a long time for a drying out period, but probably best to be sure things that take hours to make don't break, that's for sure, I did that with my kiln sitter skutt, but didn't do it with the first load of bisque on this kiln, but that one thick vase may need it.

  15. Hi Marguerite, thanks, yes work but also fun and a challenge, good weekend to you, I am sure your's will filled with good food and dance. Ha.


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