Tag Archives: plates

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

Bowls and Plates – Update

A few weeks back I mentioned some clay work I had done – functional work, for a change. I showed it to you as it came out of the kiln.

I’m slowly beginning to work on it. I’m not in any hurry, and so I don’t know when I’ll finish the group. That’s fine, I like to take my time when I am glazing clay.

I decided to do a preliminary step in a few cases – make some simple designs using wax, right on the clay. The wax acts as a resist to anything put over it, vaporizing in the kiln. What will be left, in the way I did things, are marks showing the original clay color.

You can use the wax technique on underglaze colors, too – paint one color, apply the wax, paint another color, and you’ll end up with a design featuring the original color.

Anyway, on some of the pieces, I applied wax (which looks green in this stage of things, don’t be confused) and then put black Velvet underglaze over it.

On the others I simply painted the black underglaze, as you can see here.

Then I started to work on the pieces. I am using various Velvet underglazes, as I do with my tiles, and then scratching through the colors when wet to the black layer to form lines. I have some plates and a couple of sizes of bowls I’m working on.

I can only do a little work at a time. This type of glazing takes a toll on my arthritic hands. I don’t work on it for more than a couple of hours and I don’t do it two days in a row – I’ve learned from my tile work I suffer if I don’t follow this plan. That’s ok. It keeps me from hurrying through the process.

I have done maybe half or so of the inventory I have waiting. I need to finish the “fancy” side and then turn them over to do the outsides – those, I think, will be something simple, maybe spattered. I’m more interested in the top sides.

Once they are ready, I will fire them again and see how things turned out. After that, I’ll make any underglaze adjustments and then glaze them. Yes, I will put “shiny” on these. Since they are functional pieces, I need to make sure that they are food safe, in case someone should decide to use them in that way. Then they will be fired again.

OK, I’ll keep you up to date on this project as things progress.

The Future Holds a Secret…

…and the secret is, what will these bowls and plates look like when I am finished with them?

I haven’t made any functional clay work in a long time. I’ve focused on tiles and sculptures. But — I got an itch to make some bowls and so…I did. Here they are as they come out of the kiln.

These items are all hand-built. I have several commercially-made bowls and plates that I use as forms.

I roll out a slab of clay (in this case, I am using low-fire terracotta and white clays).

I prepare the form by cutting strips of newspaper and lining the bowl or plate with them, then wetting the strips. This step is necessary to prevent the item I’m making from cracking as it dries – the clay will shrink  and so the paper allows it to move, rather than being stuck to the form, pulling away, and breaking. Once the item is dry, I remove as much paper as I can, but it’s ok if I don’t get it all – the paper burns off in the kiln.

Once everything has dried, I load the kiln and do an initial (bisque) firing.

These items were fired a couple of days ago. Now I will decorate them, and I think it will be a long process, since I intend to put a lot of detail into them. I don’t want to hurry – I want to take my time and enjoy the process. So it may be a while before they reappear, all dolled up!