I have had several other firings in this kiln before I started writing blog posts. So when I say that I’m frustrated it isn’t because after 2 firings I’m giving up.
I am wondering if a day will come when I will open the kiln with glee and 95% of the ware is useable. That day is not today.
For the master potter reading this please keep in mind that I am very new and very learning right now.
The first problem I’m noticing is that the bottom shelf is very hot. Possibly cone 7-8 hot. I need more cones to know for sure. The middle shelf hits cone 5 just fine and the top of the kiln just makes it over cone 4. So the heat is not dispersing well. Possible solutions – plugging up peep holes? My concern is lack of oxygen. Maybe a reduction environment isn’t as bad as I thought. I originally thought that it was to blame for the more grey than white colors, but that seems to be a clay issue.
Nothing came out pure white, but it is looking better than the 1/2 and 1/2 with clear glaze. I am wanting to see pure white finishes and just not getting it (haven’t tried a lot of variations). I dipped some work in porcelain slip. The 1/2 and 1/2 dipped in porcelain looks quite nice. I’d still like a shinier, more brilliant white, so I’ll probably look into other clays and white underglaze.
I had a solid amount of cracks today in what would have been beautiful pieces. I think there are a few factors lending towards this. 1 – I have been drying my work way too quickly. I just received my mini greenhouse order and this should help the problem. I haven’t had a damp closet to store my pieces. 2 – I haven’t been wedging anything. I don’t know if this works for the planters though because those get run through the slab roller. 3 – Over firing. I’m pretty sure that’s my biggest enemy right now. I need to learn about distributing the heat more evenly in that beast of a kiln. 4 – Many of my thrown pieces developed s cracks during the bisque firing so they didn’t make the cut to glaze. This is most likely due to lack of compression and no wedging. I apologize. No more short cuts.
The magnolia mugs are AWFUL. I’m so embarrassed. There are large bubbles in the mugs. Not the glaze (more on that in a moment). In the mugs. This probably indicates poor compression. Again from not wedging. On top of those bubbles the glaze blistered in an impressively terrible way. I should have known something was wrong. When I dipped the mugs into the glaze, it didn’t dry. It took almost an hour for the glaze to dry. So something was fishy there.
So I have a giant BBQ of a kiln that I need to play with to achieve somewhat more refined results. I purchased the kiln because I could only buy one and I want to do raku someday. I couldn’t buy an electric kiln because I don’t have access to the 240. I’m frustrated because I never had problems like this with the electric kiln in the high school, so I know that my job is to learn the ins and outs of this beast I’m working with. I can’t afford another kiln. I could possibly ask the school if I could use the school’s kiln and pay per load, but frankly I don’t want to spend time there anymore.
After reading some posts from the online ceramic community I can confirm that working with an Olympic Torchbearer is not ideal. No one seems really happy with them and it appears that most people purchase them out of affordability. This makes me feel better and worse. Better because the work I’m doing is suffering PARTLY from the beastly nature of the kiln. If I recognize the kiln’s limitations I can make work designed to be successful in that kiln (thinking rustic, earthy work). Worse because I want to create delicate, beautiful work. This means I will need to purchase a new kiln in the future AND I need the proper outlet. Now I could put the kiln in my new studio space, but the electricity in that building is TERRIBLE and I wouldn’t trust it to support the 20 amps needed. So that involves hiring an electrician to do a lot of work and I don’t know maybe I’ll just paint more portraits.
This is where my gofundme account gets created and suddenly I have everything I need.
Worst of the firing: Magnolia mugs. I’m so embarrassed. I can’t even.
Best of: This style of planter is working quite well for me. I need to make about 30 next time and stop experimenting with things that aren’t working yet.
After writing this post I did a little more reading. The ware all suffered from a severe overfiring.