Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Firing, glazing and patience: A New Year’s Resolution

I’m used to clay. Building. Throwing. Coiling. Rolling. I’m not used to glazing. I’ve taken classes and glazed some pots, but others, much more experienced than I, handled the firing. This time, I’m on my own. It’s scary. One of my resolutions for the New Year was to do a glaze firing of my own work in my own kiln

First, I did what I always do when faced with a new and challenging task, I researched it. I asked experienced potters. I read online articles. I watched YouTube videos. I visited the local ceramics store and bought glazes and tools. Then, I got to work throwing and hand building, followed by bisque firing, and finally, brushing on those glazes I’d bought months ago.

The glazes were dry. The cups, bowls and masks were ready to load. . So it was time to face my fear.

First, I vacuumed out the kiln and wiped the dust off the kiln shelves. I’ve never done that before but I read about it in a tutorial (it’s supposed to be VERY IMPORTANT), this time, I did it. Next, I gathered all the glaze painted pieces and began the loading process.

It’s a puzzle. Fitting all those mugs, bowls and masks onto shelves so there’s enough space between them while making room for everything. I’m not that good at puzzles and I didn’t want to screw it up. So it took me about an hour.

Finally, it was time to put the cone in the cone sitter, close the lid and turn it on. I went back to the company tutorial to make sure I did everything right. I turned it to low and set my time for 2 hours. Then, I ran an errand.

Everything was fine, so I turned it up to medium for another 2 hours. I was jittery. I dust mopped my floors, washed my down parka, folded laundry and talked on the phone. My timer rang. I jumped up and ran out to the kiln. I looked cautiously through the vent in the lid, everything looked fine. It was time to lower the lid all the way and turn it up to high. I lifted out the kiln vent wedge with an old potholder and turned the knob to high. I held my breath and waited.

Silence. Well, nothing blew up immediately. I took it as a good sign.

I walked the dog. Fed the cat. Cleaned up the dishes. And I ran outside to check on the kiln. Then upstairs to close the shades. Turn on some lights. And downstairs to check the kiln. Again.

It’s still sitting in the same place and it’s hot. It’s been over 3 hours since I turned it up to high and the cone has not shut off the kiln yet. It’s still firing. All I can hear is the buzz of the coils heating. I take a deep breath in and out and go back inside. Even if the kiln shuts off now, right now, I won’t be able to open the kiln until tomorrow.

It’s doing its job firing my pots.
My job is to wait.

So, here I sit and wait and check off a New Year’s goal. I have gone through the loading, firing and glazing process in my kiln for the first time. But perhaps the real resolution is not out there in the kiln, but in here.

Inside me. A new resolve, a small opening letting in a little bit of warmth that shows me how to take a risk and to face my fears not with action, but with patience.


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Susan Gallacher-Turner and Mike Turner said...

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