Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Straight from the Kiln

These are some beads which I glazed the other day. On these skewers sit 104 beads, all between 11-13 mm. Yesterday I placed them onto rods and arranged each rod onto kiln stilts and began the firing process. It's a bit like a turkey dinner, minus the basting process.

For hours and hours I have to pretend there's nothing going on outside on the back porch. I try not to think about the clay becoming crystallized and (hopefully) beautiful in the fiery heat, that the glaze isn't dancing wildly on top the surface of each bead, deciding where and how to settle. In the meantime I tidy up the studio and the house in general, study my glaze notes (update them too!), sketch a bit, make supper, read a bit, play with the pups and ignore the kiln making its buzzy noises as it slowly continues to gather heat. It continues to fire long into the night.

By the time morning rolls around, I am impatient. I know they fired correctly or the kiln would have showed an error on the digital read out. I have to remind myself over and over not to open the kiln until it falls below 300 degrees. That's never until after noon. Finally, when the temperature is low enough, I lift the cover and take a peek. Did the beads topple? Did I hang them too close, fusing them together like tiny barbells? Did the colors completely burn out? So many ifs ... so many hours of waiting...


I leave the lid off for a few minutes so the kiln posts can slightly cool. I put on heavy gloves and remove the kiln posts and lift the rods out of the kiln.

Now I must wait until the beads are cool enough to take them off their rods. Sometimes this is an easy process. Sometimes it is not. Sometimes they don't come off their rods at all and it is a long an arduous battle in which I hold the rod with one hand and a pliers in the other. Today I lost 15 beads to the rods. These few beads simply would not budge and no amount of twisting, turning, and tugging worked.

However, for the ones that did slide off the rods (some easier than others), they will go into all sorts of beautiful jewelry. These are the ones that make it all worthwhile.

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