Firing is not my favorite part of my art-making process. I know it's because I have to give up and give in to the kiln. It's scary because even if I've done everything right: wedging, throwing, rolling, underglazing, bisque and final glazing, everything can go wrong.
Maybe there's another reason I don't like firing. I'm officially done. It's over. The piece is out the studio, out of my hands and on its own. My studio shelves look a little empty.
When the kiln lid closes and firing starts, I'm finished whether I like it or not.
I like to finish projects. I love the feeling of accomplishment. But I struggle with that part of myself that doesn't like to let go. I always see possibilities: more color or texture or lines to add. But even though my pieces go through 2 or more kiln firings before the final glaze firing, I still put it off just in case. Oh, I know I'm procrastinating and finally, I can't stand it anymore.
I turn on the kiln, set my timer and wait. I have an old manual kiln that was gifted to me by a very generous man. I thank him every time I load, fire and unload it. But it is getting older and will soon need new coils and some bricks fixed, which is very costly, and that adds another layer to my kiln-sitting stress. Will this be the time the kiln decides to quit on me?
I don't peek for four days. Honest.
Why? Because I use porcelain and I've learned that opening the kiln up before my pieces have totally cooled to the surrounding temperature both in my garage and in my studio causes cracks. There is nothing sadder than putting all my heart and soul into my work only to hear the awful sounds of popping and cracking because I lacked patience. And I do lack patience most of the time, but not when it comes to kiln cooling. I keep my cool.
This time, lifting the lid was joyful.
I tried some new ideas in this group of bowls. I wanted a landscape feel that reminded me of the watercolors and oils I used to paint. I added more texture inside and out. The spirals and trees in the middle of the bowl feel like the drawing I used to do. I used the under glazes like watercolors creating a sky surrounding the tree landscape.
As I opened the lid, I saw the colors were even better than I'd hoped. As I took each piece out, I examined it inside and out for cracks, glaze slips or bubbles. It looked good. Whew.
Now, there's always a piece or two that I know have some kind of issue going in. It might be a weird bump or a slight crack, so I don't expect those pieces to be perfect. I hope for the best and sometimes, I'm happily surprised. Sometimes, not. This time, one bowl made it out better than I thought it would but it's not up to my standards, so it will go on my 'seconds' shelf.
I'm still happy, though. Because 22 out of 23 pieces came out whole.
It was a good firing and that's a very good thing.