Bisque Firing 05-09-12: Passes, Fails, and Thoughts on Process

Results from my bisque fire earlier in the week:

Some great stuff came out! I have been trying some new things in the terracotta. You see the little bird ring dish there and the fish trivets/plaques. I have started glazing some of these already. I fired higher this time on the recommendation of a potter I met a while ago. The underglaze went on much more smoothly. I just hope it doesn't fall off when I do the glaze fire!

Stop by tomorrow for a new cross stitch chart! 

And if you want to see some great pottery check out this week's Mud Colony

And then there was this great big handful of FAIL. But that is OK. Some of it was I expecting and it means I won't waste a ton of time and energy trying it on a bigger piece. This handful represents at most a pound of clay. I learned some useful things about a couple of my underglazes. And that my incense burner design needs some work.

 One of the things I love about being a potter is a kiln opening. Every time a firing is finished you get to be six years old again on Christmas morning. You have been looking at that pile of presents for a month. You have been shaking, squeezing, rattling, and speculating as to what might be under all the shiny wrappings. And finally you get to tear the paper off and see how many pairs of socks you got and how many are the wonderful toys about which you have been dropping hints since September. Sometimes those toys are all that you hoped and more and sometimes the reality does not quite live up to the batteries-not-included-some-assembly-required reality.

Pottery is a skill of process and patience. Making something out of wet clay is just the begining. Your piece has to make it through drying, trimming, and sanding before it gets bisque fired. If it weathers the bisque it still needs to go through glazing and a glaze firing and maybe even SEVERAL glaze firings depending on the sort of pottery you do. You may not know if what you are doing is going to work out until weeks have gone by since the piece was first formed.

A potter occupies that uncomfortable space between artist and scientist. There is a lot of chemistry and physics. There is an equal amount of design and aesthetics. There is always an experiment going on.

When a kiln is opened you get to see if your hypothesis is correct. Or if it is a great big mahoosive FAIL. Maybe you were testing the limits of a new material, or seeing what sort of colour a particular mix of clay and stain would result in, maybe you were trying to create something functional that fails to function because your design sucked.

One thing that has been hard for me to learn in becoming a potter is that failing is OK. If you set out for perfection from the start you will be too afraid to get started.There will be lots of stuff that does not work out. If you don't find out what doesn't work you are never going to grow.

But then there are the successes. The stuff, because you have learned from going through the process, that you know is going to work. With every firing there is progress and there is always something new to learn.


Adriana Christianson said...

Hey thanks for your post on Mud Colony !!
Remember to pop in the link back to our blog so people can find us all there in our studio's !

Brenda said...

Your work is so whimsical! Like you, I love that first peek inside my kiln and it is like Christmas! As a new potter, I am disappointed when something doesn't turn out as I had planned but it's all a learning curve!

Anna said...

Your comment about failing being OK rings so true with me... which I had had that knowledge while at college and I might have been more adventurous!

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