Category Archives: Clay

Results Are In – Part 4

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ve spent several posts going over the results. This is the last of the series.

Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Results Are In – Part 3

Results Are In – Part 2

Results Are In – Part 1

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project

Bowls and Plates – Update

The Future Holds a Secret

I’m taking you on a side trip into the world of the kiln. I thought I’d show you the inner workings of this process.

 

The kiln…

 

Every load of clay work to be fired is different – tiles, objects, vessels, sculptures – and the kiln needs to be flexible to handle it. This is accomplished by the design of the kiln and its “furniture”, or the items that hold the clay work in the kiln.

I’ve got a simple layout here – I just use shelves and stilts. Shelves come in whole or half sizes and the stilts are the supports. Every time I load the kiln, I need to figure out the way to arrange everything so as to get the most use out of the firing yet with every item having the space it needs.

I start at the bottom and work up, having looked over my assortment of work to go in. In a bisque, or first, firing, I can stack items; in glaze firings the items must not touch each other. The pieces all need room to expand a little during the firing and the lid should be at least an inch above everything inside.

It’s something you learn to do as you gain experience, how to make the most of your space. I enjoy the challenge of it.

All right. These are photos of the recent bowl and plate firing. I took the photos as I unloaded the kiln, so you are seeing fired work. But, voila! I reverse the order of the photos and you can follow along the process of how I got the kiln filled. I start at the bottom, level 4, and work my way up.

I was pretty happy with this load – I got all the work in by using two half shelves side by side, slightly offset. Usually these shelves stack above each other, so that taller items can go beside them and smaller ones filling the shelves (think Rapunzel tower vs plates).

Well, that is about it for the handbuilt bowls and plates story. I think I will turn my attention to other media for a while. I feel happy with the outcome of my clay work, but I also am ready to think in another language, so to speak, for a while. Thank you for following along with me.

People in the Outdoors

These tiles were fired in January, 2017.

Results Are In – Part 3

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ll spend the next few posts going over the results. Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Results Are In – Part 2

Results Are In – Part 1

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project

Bowls and Plates – Update

The Future Holds a Secret

Today we move on to plates. All of them came out well, and I’m satisfied with the results. I’ve arranged them with their pre-firing selves, so that you can see the difference a couple of thousand degrees can make to a plate…

There Is No Place Like Home

These were fired in January, 2017, and made in late 2016.

Results Are In – Part 2

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ll spend the next few posts going over the results. Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Results Are In – Part 1

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project

Bowls and Plates – Update

The Future Holds a Secret

Now I’ll show you the small bowls I made. All of them involved the use of wax resist.

And then there was the one bowl that didn’t please me. I had the feeling even before the firing that I wasn’t going to be happy. And I haven’t changed my mind. Once again, I think the white spots look too unfinished. And I don’t like that messy jumble at the bottom. So, I’ll do a little fixing-up and then fire the bowl again later on.

Last, here is the tray. Simple and easy. You may remember I taped off sections and applied the underglaze, then removed the tape. This is just another resist method, with the tape keeping the color back. The tape did not adhere tightly to the clay and so that is why the edges are feathery and blobby. I liked the effect.

OK, that is enough for today.

Results Are In – Part 1

I have been working on a group of hand-built bowls and plates for some time. I’ve fired them with their colors and I’ll spend the next few posts going over the results. Here are earlier posts in the series, if you want to take a look back. They are listed in reverse order; read from the bottom up if you want to go in order.

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates
Update on the Hand-Built Bowl Project
Bowls and Plates – Update
The Future Holds a Secret

I took the bowls and plates out of the kiln. If you remember, they were in for the firing of their underglaze colors. I fired at cone 06, since I am using lowfire white and terracotta clay. No disasters and no huge failures. I breathed a sigh of relief.

I have also come to a decision. Though these are all “functional” objects, I’ve decided not to glaze them. I don’t like the look of my work when it’s glazed – the shine detracts from the intricacy and seems to hide or obscure the details. I just don’t like it, and I’ve been dreading the glazing step all along for this reason.

By skipping this step, it means these items are not food-safe, can’t be washed in the dishwasher, and so on. Well, I just don’t care. I didn’t make them for the public and I don’t mean to sell them at a show. If I let them go, it will be with written instructions along the lines I just mentioned. To me, I guess these items are “sculptures” rather than something to stack your potato salad into for a family dinner.

That means that these pieces are all finished now. What you see is what they are!

First, I’ll show you the large bowls that were made without wax resist being involved. I have a picture of each one from the top, showing the interior design, and then a side view.

Next, I’ll show you the bowls that were included the wax resist – first, the unfired bowl with resist in place, then the fired results. You may be surprised at what emerged.

And here is one bowl that didn’t satisfy me. The white dots are too much contrast for the rest of the design, I think, and too plain. Not to mention the dislike I have for that irregular blob – what happened there? I believe I will give the spots some kind of detail and fire the bowl again in a later load.

OK, I think that is enough for today.

Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

I loaded up the kiln and did the firing on Wednesday, May 10. Before I say more, let me show you the last pieces I worked on before the firing – two plates and a tray-like thing. Here are the plates:

And here is the tray-thing. I’ve made lots of these in the past – the form I use is the Styrofoam tray that meats are packed on for sale at the grocery store, you know, with the plastic wrap on top? They make great small-sized trays or shallow dishes. I used tape on this one to mask off sections and then I spatter painted.

Now, I will introduce you to the kiln. It sits in my garage.

It’s a medium-sized electric kiln and good for home use. I don’t have to wait long to make enough work to fill it for a firing. It’s computerized in its controls and that means I just set the parameters and it does the rest.

Some clay artists like to individualize their firing procedures but I just use the basic programs and that works fine for me.

As for this firing, after 1.5 hours the temperature had risen quite a bit, almost 800 degree F. I am firing to cone 06, considered a low-fire temperature, of about 1850 degrees F. This temperature is what earthenware work is fired to; stoneware clay is done to a higher range.

When the firing is done, the control panel blinks out three messages:

I leave the kiln ALONE and never ever think of raising the lid at this point. For one thing, it will cause injury to me to do so. Secondly, the clay inside can’t take the abrupt lowering of temperature that opening the lid would mean – it could shatter or crack. Patience is needed. A couple of hours after the power has gone off, the kiln is still very hot:

At this point I turned the switch off and pulled out the power plug from the wall. Now, the thing to do is wait until the next day.

I did wait, and I’ve opened the lid and see the inside, but have not had time to unload it. I can tell nothing has exploded or broken, so that is good. I’ll get everything out and take pictures, and then you’ll be able to see the results.

Opening a kiln is the most exciting thing and I think all clay artists will tell you the same thing. The surprise – the drama – the happiness of success – or the sad feeling of “What happened?”

Previous post with more information:

Update on the Hand Built Bowl Project