Tuesday, February 26

Taking Chances

These are three tiny (about one and a half inches across) pots also from my time in college. They were actually part of my thesis show to earn my BFA. They are glazed with "Shino" on the outside, and "Celadon" on the inside. The firing that these were in was the first time I was completely responsible for a firing.

The kiln held about 30 cubic feet and was gas fired (as opposed to the electric kilns I use now-although I hope to change that one day). I had a lot of pots in this kiln, and a lot of other peoples pots. Most of my pots were glazed with different Shino's and Celadon's (there are countless recipes for each). I had done a lot of research and learned that to really get a good firing, I needed to reduce (I can explain that later) like crazy. We normally fired pretty conservatively at my school, so this would be a different firing--and one I was doing alone.

So long story short I fired the kiln, about three days later (it takes a long time for a kiln that large to cool) we opened the kiln and I had my mind blown. It was spectacular. I could not have wished for better results and I was ecstatic and relieved since I think it was my last firing before the show. I learned a lot that day about taking chances with my pots. It is much easier to play it safe and not risk loosing any but also far less exciting, and you don't learn much that way.

Reducing is a method of firing whereby you intentionally starve the atmosphere inside the kiln for air. There are several ways to achieve this depending on how you are firing, but one large component is closing the damper down on the kiln, much like you would on a woodstove. It can be pretty exciting because flames will shoot out the peepholes of the kiln, or out the chimney in an outdoor kiln. The sight can be pretty impressive. As the atmosphere is lowered in oxygen the fuel now starts looking for oxygen where it can get it, and so turns to the glazes which causes them to change colors and create effects in all sorts of interesting ways. That's the short scoop anyways.

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