Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Take a Load Off Fanny

     Every ceramicist is a pyro.  I'm sure anyone can take joy out of the simple light of a candle, or watch the flames lick up the side of a log in a wintertime fire to have a quiet fascination over the power of it all.  But, for the ceramicist, fire has a function like no other, and we've come up with crazy ways of raising temperatures to the above 2000 degree mark.  These electric kilns are like glorified toaster ovens (though do NOT call it an oven in my presence... it's a kiln, darlin's).  The first caveman that ever threw a pot into a fire was a brilliant man, even if he had a significantly smaller brain than us.  Those guys discovered the vitreous quality that clay becomes after the silica melts in clay and said, "Hey!  I could use this to hold water!"  Ever since then, potters have dug holes in the ground, torched clay in makeshift water heaters with propane, or even built kilns the size of a VW van and gassed them up.  This makes me nostalgic for a good anagama firing- I haven't been to one in over a decade.
     Each of the shadowboxes will need to be fired in one of these two kilns in the backroom of ceramics central.  I could list the issues involved with this process till I'm blue in the face, but that would be counter-productive.  Let's just say that my major worry for the shadowboxes in the firing process will be warpage.  These shadowboxes are proposed to be about 12 to 15 inches of slab, which means that they'll take a wide space in the kiln.  No good.  Wide, flat projects tend to be sensitive to hot and cold spots in the kiln.  When one spot of the box will raise to one temperature, the clay will expand and shrink at a different rate than the other.  If we get any curvy boxes as a result, they'll be unusable.  How do we predict this?  You'll see tomorrow.  Keep reading.

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