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QotW: What is the silliest thing you have done or seen done dealing with Ceramics?

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HI folks, nothing in the pool again. I have been loading the kiln today, and it reminded me of something that happened years ago that might make a good topic with a few laughs. Seems we may need a good laugh lately. So my newest contribution to the Question of the Week is:

QotW: What is the silliest thing you have done or seen done dealing with Ceramics? I was teaching Ceramics 1 at the HS, and someone asked me to come check out her small kiln. She said that the kiln setter was not working and that she had over fired her last load. I went to her house, the 6 cubic foot kiln was setting on the floor, and the lid was up on the kiln. It was obvious she had overfired, but had cleaned up pretty well as she used a shelf to protect the floor of the kiln. So I started checking out the setter to see what the problem might be. All seemed to be in order, but the drop tab would not swing down. I asked her if this was the first time firing, and she said no, that she had fired the kiln several times over the last few years. Hmmm. Did something happen to the kiln lately I asked. No, we had just finished cleaning up the area, and moved it back into place. I started looking around and noticed a handle on the floor near the kiln. Turns out they had left the dust pan on the floor, and as it was late at night they had placed one leg on the dust pan. Since she didn't have shelves other than the floor shelf she did not realize the kiln was not level.

 QotW: What is the silliest thing you have done or seen done dealing with Ceramics? 

 

best

Pres

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how about the day when i was loading the kiln and i readjusted some items on a shelf and put the shelf down, loaded another one above it and continued to the top.   when i opened the kiln and removed the shelves, one had a vase stuck to the bottom of it.   there was no post next to the vase and it was about a quarter of an inch shorter than the other 2 posts across from the vase so i never realized i had put the shelf down on the vase and not a post.    

and i thought i had formed the habit in the beginning of putting the posts in first before loading anything.  

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Silly or stupid-its a toss up

lets see back in art school aerly 70s -well lets call him Ed (to protect the stupid) stacked the 36 cubic Alpine with bisque ware one late afternoon and started a candle falme on kiln and left-I was throwing late after after a few hours we all heard a huge Kabam sound and dust shot out of kiln room in huge clouds. What the heck we all slowly went it to see what that cpould have been???

Seems Ed did not know about lining up all the posts on top of each other on shelves-he just put them where he felt like and the whole load collapsed to the floor taking out all the greenware-all 26 cubic feet of it.Many people where not happy with Ed after that.

Lets move forward about 5 years and Ed was firing his 1st homemade catanary  arch kiln-it was propane-he had trouble lighting it-has the gas on and then turned it off and went for more matches-stated the burners again and Kabam as the kiln had lots of heavy propane still trapped in foor area it went off like a bomb. The arch went up -he was crouched to the side  and was knocked away of front wall as both front and rear walls blew out and arch came down in pieces-a complete loss of wares and kiln. He was ok but shaken.I was about 25 feet away at the time.

Fast forward about two more years 

Ed called me to see if I was interested in buying all his stuff which I did at that time.I figure I saved many many  a pots from destruction getting Ed out of clay .

Never heard from Ed again but if you hear a huge Kabam sound he may  around still.

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In school we had three different firings, 5 kilns.  We had lowfire/bisque, cone 6, and cone 10.  The lowfire and cone 6 were always done in big top loaders, and the cone 10 stuff was saved for the big walk-in gas kiln outside.  

Students would put their work to be fired on big rolling shelves clearly labeled with the firing temp, well one of the TAs grabbed two carts of porcelain and loaded them in the gas kiln, grabbed the stoneware and loaded it, and after the professor checked, gave it the go ahead to start the firing.  Well one of the porcelain carts was not porcelain, it was a bunch of another TAs lowfire slipware.  

They had to replace sections of the floor, and after that, no more lowfire clay, and all clays had to be purchased from the school.

 

I talked to a person who is currently going there and it sounds like they're down to two clays, cone 10 stoneware or cone 10 porcelain, and use a cone 10 stoneware for raku.  But now they also do 2 wood firings a year, which I'm very jealous of.

It wasn't the person loading being silly though, it was the other TA who was pretty much trying to run a business out of the school studio.  He got in trouble for making sinks and selling them as well.

Edited by liambesaw

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I remember the salt, and gas firing I did. I was a grad student at Penn State taking Summer classes. My firing partner and I used a small salt kiln outside that had no door, had to be bricked up. We loaded up ware from everyone including a lot of our own. All went well, until about 1am, when the bricked in door started bulging out about 1 1/2 f feet. We scrambled around to try and find a way of bracing it up and did so with some T supports that were somewhere nearby. We got to where we should put in the salt, did that right, but did not close the damper before hand. Really dry salt firing, but not a failure, if the door had collapsed I don't have any idea what would have happened. I don't think it would have been pretty!

 

best,

Pres

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Low fire and high fire programs will always sooner or later have this diasater-its not if its when

If you are the teacher trying this approach of low and high fire you are sitting on a ready made disaster.It will ruin a lot of equipment and furniture and work-just will take some time no matter how you set up the checks and balances.

I had outlawed any low fire clay in my studio in the 70s-I had a few pugs outside of 06 clay -some tine in the 80s some found its way in the glaze fire-wahat a mess-threw out low fire clay and never looked back.

 

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Teaching in HS, I made the decision to transition from ^06 to ^6. Itw as a personal decision on my part, but in the long run I believe it benefited the program. That transition however made me aware of the fact that low/high fire clays and glazes would not mix. So I did not allow anything in the studio unless the clay came from the studio.

 

bst,

Pres

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1 hour ago, Pres said:

Teaching in HS, I made the decision to transition from ^06 to ^6. Itw as a personal decision on my part, but in the long run I believe it benefited the program. That transition however made me aware of the fact that low/high fire clays and glazes would not mix. So I did not allow anything in the studio unless the clay came from the studio.

 

bst,

Pres

We were only allowed to buy clay from the school as students.  The TAs or studio assistants as they liked to be called, were allowed a lot of latitude in what they wanted to do.

After they switched everything to cone 10 it made recycling clay a lot simpler too, everything was just tossed into a single bin and what came out was the "free" clay.  A mixture of stoneware and porcelain all plugged together was all I could afford at the time lol.

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I was infatuated with the ceramic process and work of the Pamunkey Indians, a Virginia tribe located within a day trip from VCU's School of the Arts where I was earning my BFA in ceramics.  I had studied the work of the Maria Martinez and other native people's doing pit firing & burnishing black & red wares and I knew the Pamunkey's were just beginning to resurrect their craft. I lucked out and got to tag along for a few weeks with an anthropologist who was assisting them with research and reconstruction of their history and the reestablishment of all aspects their traditional way of life. I got to learn about making/firing/finishing the pottery along with them and just couldn't wait to do it on my own. Silly me. Apparently the small back yard of an urban apartment, with fussy neighbors and even fussier management (something about not liking the smoke-go figure) was not an appropriate place to do my thing. I might have given them some lip about why the heck can't I do what I choose with my little patch of ground, but they were having none of it and threatened to kick me out--only the fact that I was a single mom with a young child saved my butt...but I had to cease and desist with the backyard bar-b-ques! 

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Reminds me of the years in the beginning when I had an old electric kiln, just replaced with a new L&L. The school had a courtyard in the center of the complex that was walled by classroom 4 stories up all around. I was in the basement, and a door led out to the courtyard. I decided to get permission to do Raku in the courtyard with the electric kiln. I read up on everything, and made certain we could reach temp in time, and made certain to unplug the kiln from the industrial extension leading out. We had burn barrels for reduction, I mixed up some glazes. . . and we went at it. Did it for about 3 years with teachers learning to close their windows in the Spring other wise get smoked out! About the 3rd year they made a decision to put Central Supply in the HS building. They roofed over the courtyard, and put in double doors with a ramp in. No more raku. Never did determine if it was logistics, or a sneaky way of getting rid of raku. . . Forgot to mention that the Superintendents offices were on the first floor on one wall facing the courtyard!

 

best,

Pres

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Opened a glaze load this morning. Turned off yesterday at 3am. AS I was lifting the lid off (I use two handles on the kiln lid to remove and place on. As I often fire my sectional with 4 sections) One of the handles broke, and tore my hand on two fingers. Luckily the lid was mostly on the floor so it didn't get damaged. Nothing a few bandaids couldn't handle, but bled quite a bit. 

Load is great, get to grind and ship out the last of the Communion sets this year.

 

best,

Pres

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20 minutes ago, Mark C. said:

Prep-Your lid is loose sitting on top?? no hinge?

 

Yeah Mark, my lid is not hinged as I switch between 3&4 sections. I have had this set up for years, then about 5 years ago I put on a new thicker lid, and added a second handle. I lift the lid off of the floor to put it on the kiln no matter how many sections, not a problem. However, the handles are sheet metal hollow rounded. the handle broke near the end of the grip close to the screw plates.

 

best,

Pres

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Like everyone else I have seen my share of kiln disasters.   The worse one was the year I was graduating from college,  it was the last firing for the year.   A friend had begged the master students to put some of her pots in the firing.   Some how she had gotten some low fire clay mixed in,  her pieces on the top shelf melted and ran down the pots below.   I am not sure if every piece was ruined but it sure looked like it.   I didn't have any work in it I had already started working with C5/6 oxidation and usually fired at home.   A few month later I came home to find a dozen 5 gal buckets of dried up clay sitting in my driveway.  She had left a note saying she was giving up clay.   I called her and asked what cone the clay was and she said she didn't know.   Fortunately we had a area in our yard that always need fill because of a creek.    Denice

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Hmmmm, off the top of my head, I'm going to go with this one:

During my fifth year teaching, I had a Ceramics I class, in which I also had a couple "helpers".  I forget what that District called them, but essentially they got a credit for helping a teacher, with whatever they needed.  Generally I would only have one per class, but for some reason, I accepted both at the same time.

Anyway, the way we recycled clay, was by having the students hand mix the wet reclaim, with a dry clay powder.  I realize now, this was it's own level of stupid, and it was just something I did, because that's how it had been done by the previous instructor.  I had a couple students, who  needed more clay, and the clay powder was out.  So I sent my helpers to get another bag from storage.  The students mixed it with the reclaim, and that was that...  UNTIL, some of the projects made with that clay were fired.  Said projects partially melted.  Unlike several of the other stories, this was not a Low Fire/ Mid-High Fire issue, because we only used Low Fire.  Instead, it was a label reading issue.  The helper students grabbed a bag of dry GLAZE powder, without looking at what it was.  Am I partially to blame?  Absolutely!  I should have double checked, and in their defense, the bags looked identical, minus the stamped label, which is partially abbreviated. 

Luckily, there wasn't enough glaze mixed with the clay, to damage anything.  The projects didn't even stick to the shelf.  Basically they were large scale Egyptian Paste sculptures.

And fortunately, the contaminated clay was easy to find, and dispose of.

The worst part was that the students lost a project that they worked on.  They still got a proper grade for it, they just had nothing to take home. 

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