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!
Deciding which kiln
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.
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! Will do another post soon about firing it for the first time! 🙂
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!
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!
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!
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!
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
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
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!
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!
This week I dedicated every day to practicing throwing. It was great to get really stuck in and focus solely on one thing! I have been learning a lot about the boundaries of the clay: how far I can push it until it collapses or how wet the clay can be when turning and shaving! I have also been experimenting with the form itself, creating different widths and movements of the shoulders, neck and lip. The image shows this weeks outcome, however this is only a fraction of the pots thrown, the rest didn’t make the cut! All the clay is recycled within the university so nothing that isn’t fired goes to waste!
This has been by far the busiest week since starting the ABF programme, with the fellowship review on Thursday, the CVAN takeover Monday – Saturday and lectures to the third year students…it has been non-stop! It was great to put the sculptures and paintings into a gallery setting and give the work space to be observed individually. The experience made me aware of how the ‘multiplicity’ aesthetic is incredibly poignant to my work as I felt due to the vastness of the space, there was an unwelcoming spareness within the installation set-up. It also really told a story of both how myself and Grace have developed over the last 6 months! For myself I feel I have really developed my ceramic process, skills and glaze knowledge, I hope the next 6 months brings lots more development!
The lecture to the third years went well! It felt quite strange talking about my own practice for half an hour, I had the worlds driest mouth by the end of it! We had a lot of positive feedback though and I will be giving the same lecture to the first years next week!
I wanted to make colourful and vibrant mobiles to suspend from the ceiling as an installation which could be walked under. I used thick watercolour paper to paint on, however, completely saturating it caused the paper to warp. I decided to learn how to stretch paper, a simple process which can prevent this buckling. This process involves taping the paper to a flat surface and saturating with water and allowing to dry before painting. I was really happy with how the watercolour paint and acrylic inks dispersed across the paper.
The tiles came out of the kiln and I am really happy with the vibrancy and intricacy which the glazes achieve! I am going to do more tests of the glaze next week without a matte glaze on the top to see if it effects the shine and colour!
Two of three sculptures
I have made a target of three large sculptures to create before the end of March. They will be constructed using the same process, aiming to be complimentary of one another but still exploring various forms. I have decided to return to the smooth form as the ‘clay lumps’ which I attached on the first sculpture were too separate and alien to the form, they created an uncomfortableness.
Building Biomorphic Forms
I began to coil build a large sculpture. I started with a wobbly shaped base and this made the form more interesting and less spherical. I also decided not to add the lumps onto this one as I felt it would be good to see if the sculpture is more effective without. I also have been researching different glazes and I believe I have found the resolution to the matte/shiny/colourful problem. The only set back is that the glazes I require are sadly quite a lot more expensive, however I have ordered a set and shall see if they are worth the investment!
I also spent the week making small wooden pieces with the idea to make an, installation which is a collection of colourful organic shapes. I was really happy with the results and I am going to explore other woods which could be used to cut and possibly see if I could reduce the making time by getting them layer cut.