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Chris Campbell

How do you handle disasters in the studio? | Dec. 5, 2011

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Chris Campbell    1,087

This question would have appeared a bit earlier in the day, but since it was warm outside I decided to put up the Holiday lights in my yard.

Ever the 'artiste' I strung them free form from tree to tree ... winding and twisting over limbs and forks in trunks ...

what a great sight to see .... until ... I brought out the extension cord and found I had the wrong end at the end!!! :angry:

The correct end was somewhere in the middle of my brilliant stream of consciousness effort .... aarrgghhh!! ...

that is why I am late.

 

Which brings to mind the Question of the week ...

 

How do you handle disasters in the studio?

When best laid ( or terribly thought out ) plans go astray, how do you react?

 

As ever, hit the reply button at the top or bottom of the page so you don't quote the whole text.

 

To learn more about Potters Council visit: http://www.potterscouncil.org

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buckeye    1

great timing... I about burned my house down the other day after my electrical box caught fire.. yes I said CAUGHT ON FIRE.

 

For those of you who have followed my last few posts I installed a kiln recently. I did not use an electrician because I have done some wiring in the past and this was a pretty simple thing to do. I ran it by my friend who has wired several of his own houses, 2 from scratch and has always got everything approved by inspectors. After blowing a fuse I also got in contact with an electrician and all should have been fine.

 

The other day I was firing my 6th load and everything seemed to be fine when I suddenly realized the house was filling with smoke. I ran to the breaker box upstairs and all was fine, flipped the main off, grabbed an extenguisher and ran downstairs, by the time I made it down there and over to the box I could instantly tell there had been a small fire in the breaker box, pulled the one circuit out and the plastic behind it was glowing, most of the glass fuses were smoked over and the fire started where a fuse had caught fire. All of my wiring and the rest of the box is fine (for now) except for the wires to my furnace, they did not fair so well.

 

Right now I have no upstairs electric or my furnace and obviously the kiln. At this point I need a new breaker box, new meter and box, the main cable coming in the house and at least the furnace wiring fixed... did I mention that some of the wiring is probably going to need updated as well and that I have had an AWFUL cold all week AND I dont have the few thousand that this is going to cost me.... with christmas right around the corner.

 

So how am I handling it? selling a few toys I dont need (no kids so I have lots of toys) and trying to be very optimistic. Things could be worse, weather in central Ohio isnt bad right now and with a few electrical heaters house is staying pretty warm and I also have a woodburning stove and enough wood to get me through until I can get all my electric updated. Over all I am handling it great, you do what you have to do and move on. In the end it will raise the value of my house, everything will be safe and updated and it will be worth the HUGE hassle.

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Chris Campbell    1,087

Wow!! That is an incredible story and I am SO GLAD you are safe and your house is still standing.

Now ... be very careful with those portable heaters ... they sure cause a lot of fires in our area ... stick to the wood stove!

Have as good a Holiday Season as you can.

 

Now mine seems so harmless .....

 

OK ... since I have already established a definite lack of forward planning ....

my funniest accident in the studio was during a workshop I was teaching.

 

I did the demo totally wrong. Flash bulbs flashing, tapes rolling ... and I did it totally wrong.

 

Disaster? For me, not really ... I just started to laugh, said that no one could leave until I did it right.

Then with the help of my students who could show me images of what I did .... we figured it out and did it right.

 

Hopefully seeing someone else mess up totally in front of a crowd will give them permission to fail in private!

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Denice    243

Chris That is so funny about the lights I did exactly the same thing last week, except my lights are electric luminaires that have to be staked down to the ground. After spending two hours pounding metal stakes into our rock and clay soil I discovered my error, but I just fixed it with running a 50 ft. extension cord out to the end of the drive. I approach studio disasters the same way if it's not been going well for a while I'll decide to move on to another project, but if there is an inkling of hope I'll regroup and try again. Denice

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Idaho Potter    62

Buckeye, I think all of us are relieved that you are safe and sound (though maybe chilly). I'm with Chris, be carefull of portable electric heaters. They may work off 110 plugs, but check their cords and the outlet, they'll get hot FAST.

 

My biggest disaster happened several years ago. Teens are almost as quick as cats in their ability to get into trouble.

 

One day two teen students were fooling around and one fell onto a five gallon bucket of scrap (soupy) which fell and knocked over another bucket of slop. I really enjoyed the dance the two boys did trying not to muddy their new sneakers, but not the ensuing mess. I scooted everyone out of the studio locked the door and walked away. Don't you just love concrete floors? After several hours, the two boys were back using a scraper (like a straightened hoe) to roll up the soft set clay and to pick out any hair or other stuff and then the Peter Pugger did its job.

 

The buckets had only been moved to clean the studio. They were once again lined up against the wall and the boys finished their classes on opposite sides of the studio.

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A few years ago, trying to rush an order for large bowls for fountains, I had a whole kiln load explode from moisture trapped in the pieces. I didn't cry but I did have a serious case of nausea. I just closed the lid and walked away til the next morning when I removed the shards and vacuumed out all the dust- all the while giving myself a good talking to about lessons learnedrolleyes.gif So that's how I always try to approach studio disasters- what did I learn from this? From that disaster I learned to take time and make sure things dry properly, and I learned to give customers a realistic time frame with out apology.

Maybe the biggest disasters are the biggest lessons, even if it is hard to accept at the time.

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Pres    896

A few years ago, trying to rush an order for large bowls for fountains, I had a whole kiln load explode from moisture trapped in the pieces. I didn't cry but I did have a serious case of nausea. I just closed the lid and walked away til the next morning when I removed the shards and vacuumed out all the dust- all the while giving myself a good talking to about lessons learnedrolleyes.gif So that's how I always try to approach studio disasters- what did I learn from this? From that disaster I learned to take time and make sure things dry properly, and I learned to give customers a realistic time frame with out apology.

Maybe the biggest disasters are the biggest lessons, even if it is hard to accept at the time.

 

 

Walking away-that is my first reaction, calm down, then go back assess, learn and start over.

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Dinah    6

So sorry to read of electrical fire. Glad you're safe. I too find that the "drying game" is my biggest nemesis. We all want to please customers, ourselves, get a load glazed and test some new glaze formula. But craft work is never routine, not really. Shouldn't be at any rate. I find I am paying close attention to processes and stages in making, firing, decorating, recording, marketing. Just slow and steady with about 2 blowouts a year turning the drying game into the crying game. Enough to serve as a reminder to Pay Attention.

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Chris Campbell    1,087

"Walking away-that is my first reaction, calm down, then go back assess, learn and start over."

 

That is what it boils down to for me too ... Walk away (screaming sometimes), but walk away until I can calm down. Sometimes these disasters are not self inflicted ... Suppliers stop stocking your main ingredient ... Best gallery goes under ... Reliable glaze goes wonky because some ingredient changed ...

I try to find any spot in the situation where I can get some kind of control then act on it. Learn the lesson ... even if the lesson is only don't do it again or don't rely on a single supplier or gallery.

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Pres    896

"Walking away-that is my first reaction, calm down, then go back assess, learn and start over."

 

That is what it boils down to for me too ... Walk away (screaming sometimes), but walk away until I can calm down. Sometimes these disasters are not self inflicted ... Suppliers stop stocking your main ingredient ... Best gallery goes under ... Reliable glaze goes wonky because some ingredient changed ...

I try to find any spot in the situation where I can get some kind of control then act on it. Learn the lesson ... even if the lesson is only don't do it again or don't rely on a single supplier or gallery.

 

 

Or like today, when the breaking glaze on the load was not mixed up completely and everything was darker than should have been-oh well~!

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So sorry to read of electrical fire. Glad you're safe. I too find that the "drying game" is my biggest nemesis. We all want to please customers, ourselves, get a load glazed and test some new glaze formula. But craft work is never routine, not really. Shouldn't be at any rate. I find I am paying close attention to processes and stages in making, firing, decorating, recording, marketing. Just slow and steady with about 2 blowouts a year turning the drying game into the crying game. Enough to serve as a reminder to Pay Attention.

 

 

 

Really all the variables are why pottery making is so endlessly entertaining, I guess.

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TJR    359

Chris;

I am replying to you again, even though I see that this is an old post.

I came in to my art room yesterday and to my amazement/astonshment, the kiln was STILL GOING !!! aLWAYS, i COME IN, KILN IS OFF, TAKE OUT SPIES, LIFT LID SLIGHTLY AND COOL THE KILN SLWLY. bEEN DOING IT FOR 26 YEARS NOW. i TEACH SENIOR HIGH ART, GRADES 9 TO 12.oops Caps on.

I looked closely at the kiln and realized that it had been firing on medium for almost 24 hours!!!. I had visions of glazes running off pots, things melted, shelves cracked, Couldn't open it until today as it was too hot. Should I shut it off, or crank it up to High? I opted for the former, and turned her up. Kiln fired off in an hour. Students asked me all day where their work was. I had to confess that the kiln was on all night. Anyway, I came in today,opened up the kiln and everything was fine. Because it was a cone 06 firing, I had greenware and glaze stuff in the same kiln. I had large sculptural heads, Spirit Boxes[slab boxes], and Anthropomorphic mugg.[mugs shaped like animals]. All were good.phew!

I wanted to post my own forum on this topic, but I see you beat me to it.Thanks.

TJR

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buckeye    1

Chris;

I am replying to you again, even though I see that this is an old post.

I came in to my art room yesterday and to my amazement/astonshment, the kiln was STILL GOING !!! aLWAYS, i COME IN, KILN IS OFF, TAKE OUT SPIES, LIFT LID SLIGHTLY AND COOL THE KILN SLWLY. bEEN DOING IT FOR 26 YEARS NOW. i TEACH SENIOR HIGH ART, GRADES 9 TO 12.oops Caps on.

I looked closely at the kiln and realized that it had been firing on medium for almost 24 hours!!!. I had visions of glazes running off pots, things melted, shelves cracked, Couldn't open it until today as it was too hot. Should I shut it off, or crank it up to High? I opted for the former, and turned her up. Kiln fired off in an hour. Students asked me all day where their work was. I had to confess that the kiln was on all night. Anyway, I came in today,opened up the kiln and everything was fine. Because it was a cone 06 firing, I had greenware and glaze stuff in the same kiln. I had large sculptural heads, Spirit Boxes[slab boxes], and Anthropomorphic mugg.[mugs shaped like animals]. All were good.phew!

I wanted to post my own forum on this topic, but I see you beat me to it.Thanks.

TJR

 

 

 

Glad everything turned out good! I have trouble not breaking my own stuff and worrying about myself, cant imagine doing it for several people!

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Pres    896

Chris;

I am replying to you again, even though I see that this is an old post.

I came in to my art room yesterday and to my amazement/astonshment, the kiln was STILL GOING !!! aLWAYS, i COME IN, KILN IS OFF, TAKE OUT SPIES, LIFT LID SLIGHTLY AND COOL THE KILN SLWLY. bEEN DOING IT FOR 26 YEARS NOW. i TEACH SENIOR HIGH ART, GRADES 9 TO 12.oops Caps on.

I looked closely at the kiln and realized that it had been firing on medium for almost 24 hours!!!. I had visions of glazes running off pots, things melted, shelves cracked, Couldn't open it until today as it was too hot. Should I shut it off, or crank it up to High? I opted for the former, and turned her up. Kiln fired off in an hour. Students asked me all day where their work was. I had to confess that the kiln was on all night. Anyway, I came in today,opened up the kiln and everything was fine. Because it was a cone 06 firing, I had greenware and glaze stuff in the same kiln. I had large sculptural heads, Spirit Boxes[slab boxes], and Anthropomorphic mugg.[mugs shaped like animals]. All were good.phew!

I wanted to post my own forum on this topic, but I see you beat me to it.Thanks.

TJR

 

 

 

Glad everything turned out good! I have trouble not breaking my own stuff and worrying about myself, cant imagine doing it for several people!

 

 

Did it for 60-180 students a year for 30 years. It is a nerve racking situation to be responsible for firing that many other peoples pots. In all of it, the worst I had happen was a bisque that fired to cone6. Sitter was set with right cone, but the sitter sat across two sections. One section got out of align-so the shut off tab couldn't drop. Pots were over fired, but we did our glazing with warm ware, and did a lot of spraying-they still came out fine, but it was worrisome!

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Benhim    3

I've moved my kiln three times now, and each time it has fired slightly differently due to power supply. The first place was old with small leads, the second place had new upgraded leads and a new box, and the new place has old medium sized copper leads. The kiln is slowed in the new place, which suggests the power supply is lower than the previous location. My first firing at the new place was a misfire. The pots were supposed to be donated to a fundraiser. They were covered in glaze blisters. There were several different clay bodies in there all with the same glaze so I ruled out the clay being the culprit and figured it fired to slow and cooled to fast. After feeling frustration and embarrassment, I read a few books and resolved to fire back down from now on to stop the quick cooling problem. So I'm using a modified ramp down schedule that several other potters use.

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Pres    896

I've moved my kiln three times now, and each time it has fired slightly differently due to power supply. The first place was old with small leads, the second place had new upgraded leads and a new box, and the new place has old medium sized copper leads. The kiln is slowed in the new place, which suggests the power supply is lower than the previous location. My first firing at the new place was a misfire. The pots were supposed to be donated to a fundraiser. They were covered in glaze blisters. There were several different clay bodies in there all with the same glaze so I ruled out the clay being the culprit and figured it fired to slow and cooled to fast. After feeling frustration and embarrassment, I read a few books and resolved to fire back down from now on to stop the quick cooling problem. So I'm using a modified ramp down schedule that several other potters use.

 

 

When I bought my trusty L&L close to thirty years ago, I was one of the only ones purchased without a kiln sitter. L&L wasn't too happy about it, but relented. I have been firing with a cool down cycle for years to assure proper glaze surface, and to reduce crazing of an outside kiln cooling too fast in the winter months. True I have overslept at times, but all in all, it has been a great kiln with great firings. Now that I am older, and technology has added digital firing to the process my Christmas list for the next five years would include a digital L&L with all of the bells and whistles! biggrin.gif

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Marcia Selsor    1,301

I have been firing a digital Skutt 1227 at UTB. The last two attempts at firing ended with an ERR1 message. The elements are fine. The firing was a student's dinner set. The first attempt was during a cold snap and the electric heating system was running as well as fluctuations in the city's power supply. The second try did melt the glaze but also ended in an ERR1 message. Again a cold snap and electric heater running and fluctuations in the power supply. Could those fluctuations be the problem?

Any ideas.

Marcia

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Pres    896

I have been firing a digital Skutt 1227 at UTB. The last two attempts at firing ended with an ERR1 message. The elements are fine. The firing was a student's dinner set. The first attempt was during a cold snap and the electric heating system was running as well as fluctuations in the city's power supply. The second try did melt the glaze but also ended in an ERR1 message. Again a cold snap and electric heater running and fluctuations in the power supply. Could those fluctuations be the problem?

Any ideas.

Marcia

 

 

What is the total amperage/service of the building, what is the total amperage of the appliances running at the time. Is the Electric heat taking so much that it is draining from the kiln. Where is kiln in position of the run from the box? These are the first questions that I ask. If these are within parameters, then I would have an electrician check on the quality of the power coming into the building. I sometimes have problems in the summer with the kiln when there are so many air conditioners on. Takes forever to fire.

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JBaymore    1,432

There was the time some 30-ish years ago when I unloaded my entire noborigama fired load into the shard pit. Almost bankrupted me. My own stupid fault for not test firing the new shipment of clay body before putting it into full production. rolleyes.gif

 

 

I used the "Finding Nemo / Dorie Approach". "Just keep swimming.... just keep swimming.....just keep swimming." wink.gif

 

 

best,

 

................john

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