Uh, yeah – A KILN!
Unbelievable gift, right?!
A KILN! It’s a Tabletop Rapid Fire kiln to be exact. Isn’t she pretty? It sits right on my counter and plugs into a normal kitchen outlet. The inside chamber is just right for firing small pieces for jewelry making!
I had a larger kiln many years ago, until it drowned in a basement flood. It was an old 1960’s kiln I got for free on Craigslist. It was a manual kiln with a cone sitter. With this type you had to turn the dial , low-medium-high (sorta like a crockpot), and let it fire until it was hot enough to bend a little cone. Once the cone bent it would trigger a switch which turned the kiln off. Kind of archaic but it did the job. I used to use the kiln to make the usual ceramic pieces (cups, bowls, etc) but I also made my own small tiles and shapes to use in my mosaic work.
Here is an example of one of my picture frames.
I also worked on a really cool project with some elementary school children. We made a mural for their school with their mascot, the Gansevoort Gator.
Most of the mural was made up of small ceramic pieces which the kids made over a couple weeks. It is on display in the school lobby. If you’d like to see a little video about the project CLICK below.
Another really fun one was the project I did with children from Upstate Cerebral Palsy. I was a teaching artist under a grant from Central NY Arts Council. The children made little depictions of themselves out of clay which were then combined into a large piece which was close to 6 feet tall. Here are some photos of the finished piece and the work in progress. It is displayed in their Rome, NY site.
You probably know I work in polymer clay but truth be told - I really love the ceramic pieces! I love the weight, the clinky noise when they move against each other and I LOVE the glazes! Back when I had my old kiln I didn’t even know there was a market for ceramic components for jewelry making, maybe there wasn’t one back then. BUT there definitely is one now!I really wanted to try my hand at making ceramic pieces… SO, you can just imagine HOW happy I was when I opened that package Marlene sent me?! I felt like an absolute princess! A VERY spoiled one at that!
Of course I didn’t have any clay on hand so I had to order it. I
tracked stalked that shipment from the minute I placed the order. When it arrived I wasted NO time in getting to work. Unfortunately working with ceramic clay is a sloooow process. You have to let the pieces dry thoroughly before firing (or they could go BOOM!). Then the firing process is about 7 hours (depending on temperature at which you fire)…AND then you have to leave the kiln to cool overnight to prevent thermal shock!
BUT, the wait is well worth it. When you get to finally open that kiln door, well, its just like Christmas morning! (I know you've heard others say the same thing, it's the best way to describe it).
Here is a picture of my first batch still in the wet clay stage.
And here are the pieces after firing! GORG, right?
Glaze makes all the difference.Here is a comparison: before and AFTER the glaze has done its thing. It goes in all dull and comes out shiny and in vivid color!!
I got my clay shipment on January 22nd and have done a firing every day since! I am working on ways of increasing the amount of pieces I can get in one load. Because it is a tabletop model it's chamber is small. All the shelves and other equipment sold online, like glaze stilts and bead racks, are too large. So what’s a girl to do? Make my own right? I have fashioned my own little stilts out of wire which I insert into the fiber shelf that came with the kiln:
I just finished a bead rack I created to fit. It will allow me to fire my beads so that they don’t roll around, if glazed pieces were to touch during firing they fuse together. Don't want that! I am hoping MY bead rack design will solve that.
Well that's all for now, I really have to go now, it's time to play in the clay…more to come, stay tuned!