February was a busy month, a short one, as the geese started to fly back north and the sap started running up the maple trees, I was still finishing my after-Christmas orders and prepping for a Valentine’s vase run. It had been about three years since I made vases for the holiday of love, and I thought it might be fun to try again.
I created about 15 vases using five pounds of clay each and set them up to dry. Then I trimmed them with a rasp carving in texture lines on their base. I fired them in the bisque, put a wash of red iron oxide on their bottoms, and back-wiped the oxide into the texture lines. I then glazed the vases with a hand-mixed glaze I had used for a time. I wanted these to be different and decided to try a carbon-trapping technique.
Carbon trapping is when soot and smoke from the kiln get trapped in the glaze. There are many ways to bring this about. One can turn up the fuel intake, creating soot, or create soot yourself by adding burnable to the kiln and closing it off. This would be like the raku process, where combustibles are added to a container with a hot pot inside, and the lid is sealed to create a reduced atmosphere.
What I wanted to test out on the whole load was what would happen if I dumped wood chips down the center exhaust hole of the updraft once the kiln reached temperature, then sealed it up and let it smoke out. I knew I might get some reds from copper glaze if the kiln went into heavy reduction, but beyond that, I had no clue as to what else might happen. Some think cone 6 is too hot for carbon trapping to work, but that was not the case, as I will demonstrate below.
So when the kiln shut down at cone 6, I shoved all the wood chips down into the hole quickly as I could, then sealed it over with a broken kiln shelf and let it smoke out. It smokes on for quite some time, burning off all the carbon I put in.
I left the kiln sealed up overnight, and then when it cooled, I went out to open the kiln load to see what might have happened. I was hoping I would have a few good pots to sell even if the whole experiment failed. I opened the lid and was pleasantly surprised. All the vases survived. Breathing a sigh of relief, I took some time to look over the vases one by one as I pulled them from the gas updraft kiln.
I left the kiln sealed up overnight and then when it cooled I went out to open the kiln load to see what might have happened. I was hoping I would have a few good pots to sell even if the whole experiment failed. I opened the lid and was pleasantly surprised. All the vases survived. Breathing a sigh of relief, I took some time to look over the vases one by one as I pulled them from the gas updraft kiln.
As I pulled the vases out, I could tell they might not be for everyone as most of the buyers may have been looking for Seafoam Green colors to be on the vases. But what I had here was much more interesting to look at, and at times you should not hold off on an idea simply because of what buyers may think or if it will sell or not. Many times in history, things that buyers disliked early on are later attributed to advances in how we use, see, and create.
Black spots of carbon trapping marked the glaze on the pots that were closest to where the wood chips were pushed in. The copper green came out with flecks of reds, violets, and blues due to the reduction caused by the wood chips. Smoke trailing lines marked the pots, and even some sections had a birthmark-like spot from the other pots sitting next to them. I thought the results were quite amazing, and a few of the buyers did, also.
I was happy many of my viewers and fans thought the process was interesting enough to buy themselves a vase for Valentine’s day, and even better if a loved one bought flowers to put inside them. Below is a video of the kiln opening.
A ChatGPT Church Scandal
Most people understand that sermons do not come as they did in days of old, and what to tell the people no longer involves getting pulled into the heavens by your hair. Bible study commentaries have been around since the printing press, and much later, it was all digitized so a man of God could line up the text with illustrations with ease and have it all work out in a smooth, coherent sermon.
So much so that if you were the type who took notes with colored pens, it might be easy to highlight and mark things down in a nice outline format without things getting out of hand too much. It also cut down on bible leapfrogging as the preacher was able to tighten up his references rather than skipping around in the biblical texts like scattershot to put an idea together.
For the last six months, Linda Rodgers was enjoying the sermon layouts and delivery as she sat with her markers and a wide-margin bible up front in what used to be called the a-men pew. Not too many yelled a-men from the spot anymore, but she did shake her head in agreement with everything the good preacher said every Sunday.
The big controversy all started quite simply. The senior board member of the church, Richard Price, was printing out a few fliers to advertise the free soup Wednesday for the church’s soup kitchen. He came into the Church study to get some paper clips when he noticed the preacher’s laptop open on the big wooden desk.
Richard normally is not a snoop at all, but happened to see the good minister was logged into OpenAI, an artificial intelligence program that you can ask questions of all kinds to, and it would generate an answer. Richard saw the preacher had been generating content and sermons for the last year. As he looked, he counted two funerals, one wedding, and a revival.
Feeling a sense of duty but also feeling conflicted, he decided to call a board meeting. Richard met the rest of the brothern down at the Wright Choice over coffee to talk about it all that next Tuesday night.
“I don’t know about using Artificial Intelligence for the Lord’s work,” said Richard as he sipped his coffee.
“I’m more of a traditionalist and think things should be done more like the old ways through divine inspiration.”
“Well, I don’t know, maybe we should be easy on the preacher. Folks have been using technology for years to make sermons. They even have the Matthew Henry Commentary in digital format now. I can read it on my phone if any of you would like to see it.” said Dave Stanford.
Brother Greenfield agreed with Dave that the preacher’s sermons were a little more put together. “Even when Carpenter’s daughter got married, I think the minister did a great job with the sermon. It was quite eloquent, I thought. “
Dick Mitchell also sided with the other three, pointing out that during the last revival, the good preacher did an outstanding job. Even added another ten souls to the kingdom. ” I don’t see how Artificial Intelligence is keeping the good news from getting out at all. It’s a tool that can be used for both good and evil. If the devil can use it, why not the good Lord?”
Each of the other board members started their opinions, and after the last one spoke, it ended in a draw.
Big Jimmy, the owner and head cook of the Wright Choice, brought out another round of coffee and offered each a piece of apple pie for dessert. And like all good Baptists, each of the six men found it hard to turn down.
“Sure, Jimmy, just put it on the church tab,” said Richard Price
On his return with the pie, big Jimmy pulled up a chair and sat with them.
“This looks really serious, gentlemen. A church board meeting on a Tuesday night. Can I ask what’s going down?’
All the board members looked at Richard Price to speak while they ate their pie and sipped their coffee.
‘We are all tied here on what to do, Jimmy; we’ll have to take it before the church and see what they say about it.” said Richard looking down.
“Wow! That sounds serious! Maybe I can break the tie.”
“Naww, it’s ok, Jimmy. We do appreciate all you do for us, but you are not even a member. These are important decisions that involve the Lord’s work. “
“Try me! ” said big Jimmy, leaning forward in his chair.
“Well…’ said Richard,
“We found the preacher was using ChatGPT artificial Intelligence to create sermons for the last year. So we have to take it to the church.”
Big Jimmy rocked back in his chair, laughing loudly. His big sides shook, and he could hardly catch his breath. The board members looked at one another, not sure how to react.
Roaring with laughter, big Jimmy stood up and laughed his way back to the kitchen.
“Well, that concludes our meeting then, gentlemen. Thanks for coming out for this important event and giving your opinions on the issue.’ said Richard Price as he stood up and put on his coat.
“I think we can get the church together this Friday night and go over it all with them and see how they feel. I would hate to think it could end in a vote to keep the preacher or not. But we’ll let the church decide.”
Out back on the steps of the Wright Choice, big Jimmy was calling a meeting of his own.
“Hey, preacher, it’s me, big Jimmy. You have a problem. Meet me down here in twenty minutes. Your church board just left. Your job might be on the line. I owe you one for helping Buttons last month. I’m sure we can work out something.”
The little church in town was packed that Friday night. All with the members and people of the community. Most were there to vote one way or the other, and some were just there to see what might happen. The church board sat on one side of the platform, and the good preacher on the other, looking glum with his hands folded.
“This is a bit historic,” said Ruth Auburn, the town librarian, leaning in to whisper to her friend Marsha Clearwater.
“This has to be the first time this town and church had to deal with something like artificial intelligence. I have read plenty about it but never thought..’
She stopped short as Richard Price stood up and called the meeting to order. He read from the church discipline, which explained the proceedings and by-laws. Then he went over the accusations against the minister and the findings of the investigation, and told the church how the board was tied on how to handle the problem. He opened the floor for comment.
One by one, the members who felt to do so voiced their concerns and opinions in an orderly fashion according to the by-laws. After each had spoken their piece, it was time to vote. But before the vote, the minister was allowed to address the church.
Standing tall, the preacher preached to save his job using the second chapter of James. He simply read it all straight from his worn black bible. No artificial intelligence, no ChatGPT. He started simply in verse one and read to the end.
“…… and in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Then looking up, he simply asked the question. ” What have you all done that you judge me?”
There was dead silence in the church as the preacher sat down. It seemed now the church might be split on the issue.
Richard Price stood up and started the voting process. They retrieved the hat from the back room closet for votes like these. It was owned by the long-ago founder of the church, the esteemed Reverend A.C. Blackfield.
Richard explained the process, “Each member gets one vote. Fold the paper and put it in the hat as it’s passed around, please, and we will count them here in front of you all. May God help us.”
It ended in a tie. They knew for sure as the board members counted all the votes twice. They were not sure what to do. A low rumbling of voices could be heard discussing the matter throughout the church, everyone wondering how to proceed.
“Wait!” Yelled big Jimmy from the back,
“Not everyone has voted.”
At that, the church doors opened, and in walked three other members. Forgotten members, it seemed. Buttons with his shabby clothes, the farmer Rusty Clapper with his bum leg, and Billy Mott from the trailer park.
“Well..here are clips of paper, and we’ll pass the hat and take your votes,” said Richard Price, standing up.
“We don’t need no papers!” yelled Rusty.
‘That man slept at the hospital with me when I was thrown from the plow. He even helped Evelyn milk the cows until I got back on my feet. The preacher stays.”
“That Preacher there let me stay at his place and sleep on the couch after I got beat up badly one night. He even found me a job down at the hardware store. He’s a good man! That preacher stays.” said Buttons, choking up.
“I know I don’t make it here much, but I’m still a member. That preacher there sat with me all night after my father got hit on the tracks. He even paid for those meals over at the Wright Choice, even though he won’t admit it. Those were bad days for me, and he’s a good man. That preacher stays. ” said Billy Mott
“Well, that is three more votes over the tie, so the preacher stays. Thanks, everyone!” said Richard Price.
Half the church erupted in applause, and the other half was still not sure but were so moved when they were remained of the kind deeds the preacher actually lived out through his faith; they had a lot more respect for his place in the church and community. The crowd dispersed slowly, and after big, Jimmy and the preacher found themselves alone out back on the church steps.
“Hey, thanks, Jimmy, for giving those guys a ride over here. You saved my job. You’re a shady guy, and sometimes, I need a flashlight just to see you and shake your hand, but you will never get a hellfire and brimstone sermon out of me at you.’
“Well, that’s great to know!” laughed big Jimmy
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