All fired up and ready to go…

So, I forgot to bring my camera to the kiln firing. But that’s really for the best.

You would have seen me looking cool, calm and collected as I loaded about 150 of my pieces in. Nervous and excited as my teacher helped me get the firing underway and the temperatures started to rise. You would have seen me squinting into the kiln peep-holes during the morning, watching as each of my temperature-measuring clay “cones” melted away, perfectly on time.

But by mid-afternoon, it was a different situation. After my teacher left, and I was left alone with a couple of friends to keep watch during the second half of the firing, things started to go awry. You wouldn’t have wanted pictures of the scene when the old, beat-up pyrometer, used to measure the temperature electronically, finally broke. You would have seen us running around in a panic, raiding the closet for pliers, screwdrivers and anything else to put it back together. And of course, dropping the display monitor in the process, knocking loose an internal computer chip. THAT was a scary moment. And when we finally had it put back together (minus the false start where we screwed the wires in backwards and got a negative temperature reading) we discovered…the kiln had stalled.

It wasn’t increasing in temperature any more. I loosened the damper, waited. Edged the air flaps open. Waited. Turned the gas down a hair. Waited.

The temperature started crawling forward again. Hurray! But wait – the flames aren’t licking out the peep-holes the way they should – I gave it too much oxygen. I turned the gas back up. Waited. Squeezed the air flaps closed. Waited.

The flame came back, but the temperature stopped rising again! Yaaarrrgh!

By about 10 p.m., in the 13th hour of the firing, I’m sure we looked dirty, crazy-eyed and desperate. I pleaded with the kiln to go up. Threatened it. It reached about 2060 degrees F and wouldn’t budge.

The pyrometer finally broke for good around midnight. We threw it aside in disgust and decided to finish the job old school – keeping a close eye on the glowing hot cones inside, and on the color of the flame jetting out the peeps. All we had to do was keep riding it hard until the tenth cone melted. We were stuck around number seven.

By 2 a.m., we were feeling ready to give up, but we soldiered on. The ninth cone slowly dropped down. My flames were barely visible, and I had to keep lighting sheets of newspaper on fire to make sure we still had pressure coming out the peeps. We started getting silly, and comparing past love affairs.

At 3 a.m., in the 18th straight hour of firing, the cone finally started to curl downwards. We had run out of gossip, and out of music, and I decided, “Hell, it’s close enough for me.” I cranked the gas off, choked the air, stuffed every crack with insulation and called a cab.

Saturday I slept like I hadn’t in a week, and spent the day trying not to worry. The kiln slowly cooled.

On Sunday afternoon the moment of truth will come: we’ll find out if I got it hot enough to melt my glazes and mature my clay, and whether I balanced the oxygen in the fire well enough to turn my colors golden and rich.

Cross your fingers, cross your toes and pray to whoever you’ve got. I’m counting down the minutes…

Published in: on September 28, 2008 at 12:40 am  Comments (8)  

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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Not only are my finnners and toes crossed for ya, my eyes are too!

  2. Wow, what an ordeal! I really hope your glaze comes out ok and I’m glad I make jewelry. 😉


    Regarding tonight’s entry: Is it or isn’t it??? If you don’t give us the final outcome, of what’s supposed to be richly golden treasures, I’m gonna track you down girl!!!!

    You are unbelievable!!! I am so lovin’ it!!! LOL LOL

  4. What a day you had! I can’t imagine the anticipation and worry as you open the kiln this afternoon. I hope everything turns out great! Keep us posted.


  5. Wow – what an incredible day you had! I sure hope every items turns out as you wish!

  6. I am sooooo excited to see the results.
    Finger and toes crossed:)

  7. I feel your pain! I’m scared to fire up a kiln by myself for that very reason! I’d rather someone more experienced handle it. I hope it all turns out well.

  8. You are a brave, brave woman. Somehow I had the impression that the whole process was a lot more straightforward than this…

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