Buying my first kiln

Having only ever fired ceramics at university, I was used to just handing over all my greenware and glazed ceramics to Ben the technician, and then collecting them all fired and done on Monday! Since buying my kiln, I have spent 4 months experimenting and I have learnt so much! 

Model

Like everything when you first start looking, choosing a kiln was quite overwhelming! There are different sizes, makes, models and amperage and I just wanted something that was reliable, efficient and suited my work. After looking on forums and other websites, the Skutt and the Rohdes Ecotop seemed to be the best choices for me. The top loaders were much cheaper than front loaders, and from my understanding there is no difference to the firing outcome but in the way it is packed (as in the top loaders you lean over the kiln and stack shelves from above). Although the Rohdes Ecotop was quite a bit more expensive, the efficiency of the Ecotop series meant over the years I would save the money spent on the electricity. It also seemed a really well made piece of equipment…so I settled on the Rohdes Ecotop. 

Rohdes Ecotop 60L

Size

I wanted one that was big enough so that I didn’t need to be firing 2/3 times a week, but not so big that I was firing it half full and wasting electricity. The 60L seemed the perfect size for this! I have found that it still takes quite a few weeks to make enough work to fill the kiln (as my works tend to be much smaller)! It is also sometimes a little frustrating when I have a few test tiles that I want to fire but haven’t got enough glazed works to fill the rest of the kiln. But I have tried to just organise myself so that every glaze firing I make sure I have a shelf of experiments! 

Amperage


I found this probably unnecessarily confusing! Some of the small kilns with a low amp you can just plug in and go! However, the Ecotop I had chosen was 16amp, which meant I needed a 16amp plug fitting from the mains so it has its own circuit (like a cooker). This wasn’t a very expensive job, and can be done by a certified electrician. If you are wondering how much it would cost per firing, there are kiln calculators than you can use for rough estimates.

Programming


The Ecotop kiln is very easy to programme. You can have as many segments as you need and decide on your ramp rate (which is temperature you want it to increase per hour). It also comes with programmes installed already, personally I don’t use them, but you could if you wanted to! I had never programmed a kiln before I bought my own and it was really easy to follow the instructions! The controller also tells you what temperature it is at throughout the whole firing and also informs you when it is cooling and ended. 

So far, love my kiln!

PRINTING FABRICS

I have always wanted to get my patterns printed on fabric and I have recently been working with a company to create some exciting new prototypes! The process has been really enjoyable with the; planning and painting of the original artworks, the digital editing for the final design, deciding on fabric and labels and finally getting the pattern printed! I am so pleased with the quality of print and fabric of the tea towel. The colour stayed true to the design as well! Once I have decided on the other pattern, the tea towels will be available to purchase online through my shop!  

New arrival

I was lucky enough to receive one of the art council grants to set up my own home studio as a result of having no access to equipment since March! I have used this grant to purchase a kiln and a pottery wheel. It was such a difficult decision to know what type/make/size to choose! 

After a painful 10 weeks of waiting, my wheel arrived this week…and it is amazing! It’s an adjustable height, quiet, powerful and the foot peddle is really responsive. I was a bit wobbly to start off with but soon got stuck in! It’s so handy having access to the wheel at any time of the day because pots can be trimmed exactly when they need to before they become too dry. 

I have been experimenting with different forms and scales which is exciting, I will post some pictures next week of what I have been making! 

How I converted my shed to an art studio

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S T U D I O  V I E W

I have always wanted a home studio and with no studio access due to Covid and lots of time on my hands, it was the perfect opportunity to start converting. The shed is a cosy 2m x 2.5m so I needed to be efficient with the space. There is a lot of equipment, materials and space required to store, make and recycle clay, so it was a matter of trying to put a system in place which could work! 

After clearing out the shed I set about cleaning and painting the interior. The white made such a difference, it made the space look so much bigger and brighter, which is so important when it’s a dull day!

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P A I N T I N G  T H E  I N T E R I O R

I wanted a shelving area where I could store my glazes and finished pieces. And I also needed somewhere to keep drying pieces and works that were ready to be bisque fired. We had an old wardrobe in the garage which the previous owner had left and which was a dull cream, so I set about up-cycling that! We also had an old tie rack that wasn’t being used so I cut down the panels to make some shelves. It was great as the majority of the materials which were used were old repurposed wood! 

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O L D  W O O D  N E W  S H E L V E S

Despite the white wall the floor was really still very dark. When working with clay, everything has to be wet-washed so the dust doesn’t end up in the air, and I didn’t want the wooden floor getting damp. I found some vinyl which I felt really complimented the space and which would be easy to mop and clean. The pattern was really busy as well so I could get away with it being a bit dirty but not looking too messy! 

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P R E – U P C Y C L E

I needed a sturdy table for hand building and glazing, but I wanted one that also folded away so that if I needed to work on a large sculpture, I wasn’t restricted by space! I found a really solid, Lifetime table which has been perfect…I can also take it outside on sunny days! 

It took me about a week to complete and that included waiting for some materials as well! Since completing it I have barely left! Its so convenient to be able to make or quickly finish the work at any time of the day (I can also get a snack and cup of tea whenever I want which is delightful but dangerous). I shall post another up-to date photo in another blog soon as this picture was taken just after I had completed it…when it was cleaner, tidier and comparatively emptier! 

Digital colour schemes

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D I G I T A L  C O L O U R  S C H E M E S
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P A I N T I N G  P R O C E S S  S H O T

I have never been drawn to digital drawing before as I like being unrestricted by a canvas size and I enjoy the messiness of the creative process. However, no access to the studios due to Covid has resulted in me bringing my messiness home, which with cream carpets isn’t a very good combination! When deciding on colour schemes I always mix lots of different colour variations until I find a combination I am happy with. To avoid the messiness, I thought I would try my partners iPad, so I downloaded the AdobeSketch app and started experimenting. It is such a good alternative –  the process is quicker, you can make as many mistakes as you want and it is mess free!

I have put an image of my digital drawing alongside a process shot of me painting so you can see how the digital sketch translated onto the sculpture!

The process of making tiles

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G L A Z E D  A N D  R E A D Y  F O R  T H E  S E C O N D  F I R I N G
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G L A Z E D  A N D  R E A D Y  F O R  T H E  II  F I R I N G
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G L A Z E D  A N D  R E A D Y  F O R  T H E  II  F I R I N G

A collection of my newest hand painted ceramic tiles which are awaiting to be fired. They explore different glaze colour combinations and patterns! I am really excited to see how these will turn out. For those who aren’t familiar with the process, these tiles above are hand built and then left to dry completely before bisque firing (the first firing). The work is then ready to glaze. Unfired, the glazes look muted and pastel colours, however when they are fired for the second time, they turn rich and vibrant in colour. The transformation is truly amazing!

Keep a look out for when they have been fired and see how they change!

Art Core Artist Takeover

I recently was the guest artist for Art Cores Artist Takeover. I was given a 20 minute platform to talk about: my practice, the materials I work in, research, show some examples of my work, and answer any questions people may have. It was a great experience and surprisingly difficult in a sense that you aren’t talking to a person face to face! You can watch the full 20 minutes below! Enjoy! 

Graduate Worcester Festival Commission

I have been lucky enough to receive the Graduate Commission for the 2020 Atmosphere Festival which takes place every year in Worcester. The theme of the festival is “Love our World” and the commission required to be made as sustainably as possible. I decided to create artworks which were made from recycled wood as the armature and old newspapers for the outer shell.

I did a lot of research into papermache as I haven’t used it before and even though I have had quite a few problems with surface finish, I finally managed to achieve the surface quality I was seeking. It is great making public sculptures for a city that is using art to make positive change! It has taken me approximately 4 weeks to get them to this stage! Just waiting for some materials to arrive and then I can fire proof and paint them! 

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Sculptures in the making

I had a great interview with David Edmund the festival Director at Severn Arts and to meet some of the team! This was made live on Facebook, the full interview can be watched below! 

A Make-shift Studio

Since Covid-19 I have made a make-shift studio space/storage space at home where all my art supplies have been dumped and I have a small desk which I can glaze at, it’s not a very inspiring space but its better than nothing. With the weather being so nice I have been lucky enough to take projects outside where I can spread out and not be too worried about making a mess!

My ceramics practice has pretty much come to a stand still with having none of the equipment/facilities! its made me realise how lucky I am to have such easy access to them at Loughborough! I think I might order some clay so I can make some artworks ready to be fired when I get back to University, that way I am saving some of the making time that has been lost! I did make around 10 pots which need glazing so that is another 4 days work I can do at home!

I have found there has been lots of funding, opportunities, and marketing platforms made available to help keep artist communities going. I have found this really motivating and tried to involve myself in as much as I can. I have also started thinking about new approaches to my practice in terms of focusing on my 2D works and developing my collages! 

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Glazing one of the little vases