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

13 thoughts on “Kiln Time for the Bowls and Plates

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Clay has its own mind and you have to work with it or it lets you know! I like the sometimes unpredictable nature of it. There is a good deal of finger crossing when the kiln is opened.

  1. Jeanette Clawson

    These are some plates with attitude and I love them. I have done a little bit of clay work and I love the excitement of opening the kiln. Thanks for sharing your process. It’s so fun and interesting to see it. Really clever way to make your tray.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I would think your zentangle patterns would be great in a sgraffito style in clay, I’ve thought that since I saw them. And those trays, I’ve made lots, glazed and underglazed, they are useful in so many ways.

      1. Jeanette Clawson

        I think Zentangle would look awesome on ceramics! I’m sticking to exploring paper, canvas, and fabric. I’m fixing shirts that have spots/stains on them by practicing Zentangle on them. I will post something when I finish. It is a different process!

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