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With the price of inflation going up and the cost of gas sky rocketing I was forced to make a few changes and try new things to save money rather then raise prices at the pottery. One of those ways was to try something I have always wanted to try but put off, was firing the pots only once in the kiln.

This would mean I would need to practice glazing green-ware for at least the smaller items. The cost savings would cut my fuel bill almost in half. Other potters do use the single fire or once fired method but I never have. I was prepping for a show in Lake Carey PA in the Old Carter barn. It’s a real nice old barn that was refurbished to hold weddings and small local concerts. I had a load of bowls to fire out so I decided to try a single fire.

Raw Fired Pots:

 

I first took the bowls that were bone dry and glazed the insides of them all. I waited until they were dry then carefully dunked the outsides. The process was quite delicate and I did end up breaking three but it was not to bad for a first try.

Once all the bowls were glazed inside and out I then made sure the bottoms were clean by cleaning off any drips with a damp sponge. I let the pots dry some once more and went and had a coffee. Next I put large square plates down and loaded the bowls onto them in case anything blew up it would onto stick to the shelves. Being this was my first single fire, I had to be extra careful.

I started the kiln off with a two hour warm up on low with just the burners and kept it under 200F. My next time turning up the kiln I did so just until the burner barely lit. I let the kiln fire this way and slowly warm for another hour. When the alarm went off on my timer I did another turn up, this time until I could just hear a light flow of air being sucked into the burner vents. At this stage the kiln is temperature is at about 800F and it smokes some burning off the organic material. I set my timer for another hour then go trim pots or watch Bridezillas.

On the next turn up I open the valve until I can hear air being sucked in at a study flow and the flame is blue. At this point the flames should reach about half way up the kiln. After another hour I turn up the kiln until the flame in just over the top shelf and just under the lid. By this stage the kiln is normally near red heat and there is no longer any black smoke and all the carbon, if there was any, is burned off the pots and out of the kiln.

For the last turn up I like the flames to be licking about 8 inches out of the top of the lid. I let the kiln fire checking every thirty minutes,, then every fifteen minuets towards the end until the cone bends in the center peephole then I shut everything down and cover the top hole in the lid.

The process I just mentioned above worked out great as the slow manual trun ups were slow enough to allow the pots to both bisque and later become glazed all in one firing. If the single firing is done to fast issues can develop between the wall of the pot and the glaze as gases from organic matter did not have time to escape. This can cause a bit of blistering. I was very relived when I lifted the lid to see all the pots looking back at me in one piece.

I was so happy and let everyone I know all about it. I also had some ash glaze tests in there that turned out great and I was able to take all those pots and sell them at the sale at the The Carter Barn at Lake Carey PA. I also was real happy to know I could now do the single firings and maybe save a few dollars without raising prices.

However, I was not the only one making transitions to new things. Down at the Wright Choice Diner some were not all that use to change and were feeling a bit uncomfortable about it, that is, until things were worked out.

 


Transitions:

 

 

It was 6:00 A.M at the Wright Choice Diner and Milk Man Dan was there early like he was every other morning when he did the milk run. Dan would sip coffee and eat eggs over easy with toast while he waited for the boys up at the Clemmer Farm to get done with milking at 7:00 so he could make his first stop. Milk Man Dan was always a bit late everywhere he went, because in that type of profession showing up early meant waiting for some farmer to finish up so you could pump out his bulk tank. So Milk Man Dan always made it a habit in life to show up fashionably late everywhere he went just to give folks time to ready themselves for his arrival.

It all worked out in the wash as Milk Man Dan applied the same timing methods on Sundays. Showing up late meant you got to sit in the back row at church during the baptist sermon. And if you were the last one to the sermon it was far to late to have the preacher change things up and make the preaching all about you. So even if the good minister came down hard on folks for being late for church Dan was sure to miss half of it while his wife nugged him to stay awake. But this morning Milk Man Dan was not eating his eggs like normal for some reason.

The eggs and toast were getting cold on Milk Man Dan’s plate as he sat with his elbows on the counter and chin in his hands looking at them. We all were not to sure what the issue was as we glanced over.

“Hey Bob..your eggs taste alright?” I ask, leaning in to whisper.

” Taste fine to me.” Says old Bob picking up a piece of bacon and putting it in his mouth.

“ Yeah mine are fine. Not sure what’s going on with Dan down there.”

Just then Big Jimmy the cook and owner came out for a chat and noticed Milk Man Dan not being hungry. He went over to find out what the issue was. Big Jimmy knew the eggs were fried to specification. You fry them until they turn solid white then flip them and count to four. That’s how Milk Man Dan told big Jimmy how he liked them way back and Big Jimmy knew today he counted to four, he seen the kid helping do it.

“Hey Dan, you not hungry today? Did we all mess up your eggs?”

“Nawww it’s not that.” Said Milk Man Dan mumbling.

“I don’t eat eggs made and served by those kinds of people.”

At that big Jimmy went over for a closer chat.

“What do you mean “those” kinds of people Dan?”

“Well, on Monday when I was here that kid you have working came out and gave me my eggs and his name was Ricky ..but just now today that same kid comes out with a name tag called Emma. And you can’t tell me the guy got it mixed up. Just saying.”

Big Jimmy’s neck was turning red and we all at the bar went back to eating like normal as we knew something big was about to go down. Whenever Big Jimmy’s neck turned red you knew someone might be on their way to getting tossed from the Wright Choice Diner, or if not that , walked out to the back steps where all types of things were worked out the hard way.

Big Jimmy was now standing directly in front of Milk Man Dan at the counter. His large body casting a looming shadow over Dan and his plate of cold eggs.

‘”So what’s it to you Dan? Who cares what the name tag says.”

“Are you telling me your eggs are different from the ones you had here on Monday Dan?”

“Like do you think that because a person has a name change or transition that they would mess up frying eggs?”

“The kid counted to four Dan, just like you wanted. I was there to be sure. And yeah the name is Emma. Now you gonna eat those damn eggs or not?”

Big Jimmy looked down the counter at the rest of us with his red face.

“Hey Guys! Those eggs Emma brought out they were fine and all, correct?”

“Because maybe..just maybe..I could be loosing my mind and messed up the eggs today for some strange reason. So you all are telling me they were good?”

Now when big Jimmy asks you a question like that it’s important to answer quick and not keep him waiting or cause trouble.

“Sure were Jimmy!” I say.

“Tasted just like the ones we had here yesterday I would say. Easy over is how I like them and all and the kitchen nailed it for sure? Right Bob?”

“Umm Hummm!” said old Bob with his mouth full.

Big Jimmy looked back at Dan.

“Well Dan, I’m kind of hurt that you don’t like the eggs Emma fried today. And because of that I think your payment for that money I loaned you for those new tires out on the milk truck just might be due right now.”

When we all glanced over and we could see Milk Man Dan’s face go a bit white. We all knew Dan did not have the rest of the truck tire money as eight-teen wheels cost quite a bit and Dan just had them put on two weeks ago. They were nice tires. Michelins, all of them, over seven-hundred dollars a pop. We also knew never to ask Big Jimmy where he got the money that he was always kind enough to lend out if you had hard times. Big Jimmy had a big heart as long as you did.

“So this is what I’m going to do Dan. I’m going to go back into that kitchen and finish up helping out cooking, and when I come back in twenty minutes I want an answer on what you plan to do because I only need to make one phone call to a guy to have that whole milk truck out there up on blocks, because I know you don’t have the money. And also let me know if I can get you a to go container for your eggs if you decide not to eat them here but while walking home.”

With that big Jimmy turned and angrily walked past us all back into the kitchen, to let Milk Man Dan come up with some kind of action plan. It didn’t take long before Dan started eating his eggs cold and in no time flat had cleared his plate. When Emma came out for a small break and a coffee like nothing happened, we all thought we heard Milk Man Dan say the eggs were good when she asked. We though big Jimmy might have set it up that way and had a good chuckle. He was like that. Always one step ahead when he could be. Unless it was the IRS.

Now there may not be a Emma or a Milk Man Dan, but somewhere, someplace, someone was transitioning though something as the only thing constant is change.  We can face change the hard way or the easy way. We get to decide almost every time. Some changes take a bit more effort then others, but it all goes down much eaiser with a large glass of empathy.

 

Written By,

Al Wayman

Artist/Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

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Find my post on cost and a free cost analysis download spreadsheet by viewing the post “Pottery Cost Analysis Spread Sheet”

You can do it! You are ready now! It might take some time and loads of practice and hard work, but in this post I will go over a few things that you can do to make your art cohesive. Making art cohesive is not as necessary as it used to be. Like with the old music industry that went bankrupt, the internet has made it possible for you to show and reach others with your work in very cost-effective ways, eliminating many of the gatekeepers that used to have a grip where and how work was shown. So here is a no bull sh*t approch to creating art in a cohesive way.  There might be grammer and spelling errors but I am an artist and not a teacher so give me a pass maybe for all the free information packed in here for you.  If you do not get anything out of this I’ll be sure to send you a refund at the end.

This article will cover the topic of creating art that is cohesive for those looking to submit work to galleries, shows, venues, platforms, or collectors that require a cohesive body of art work to gain access to their buying community. However, know that if you can buy cars and 52 inch flat screens online and have them delivered to your home, you can also market your art in very much the same way. There is no such thing as talent. Just practice and hard work to build skill.


Build Skills In The Basics

Just like riding a bike, there is no way that you would simply hop on and Lance Armstong it out and get big wins on day one. Creating art that is cohesive takes time to build and to learn skills, techniques, and processes. I have no idea what bad art might be, and only a little about what it is not. But I do know that poorly done work with lack of attention to construction, detail, composition, shape, color, size, materials, texture, line, research, and others can give you a real bad time. I would suggest making a lot of what you make, and then make a lot more of what you make better. Repeat all of that a bunch of times.

It may take fifty, one-hundred, or maybe a thousand or two to get the basics ironed out, but it is very important on your way to creating a cohesive body of art work if you wish. The start to making art cohesive is simply making a lot of bad work as practice, finding and pushing boundaries, finding what might work best, taking chances, putting yourself on the hook, being brave, and working to eliminate any resistance that always crops up. But you can do it! You are ready now! Start by making your first pieces right now! Give yourself permission to mess it up bad and go to it. Just do something! And do it a lot! Once you simply start things will begain to work out and you will feel great creating the work. Even the terrible stuff. It’s all practice.


What To Say To Whom

The next step I would say in making your art cohesive, is after creating a bunch of work, and building the skills in the basics, is to find out who you would like your art to be for and why. Take some of your the strongest work and have a look at it all from way back. Also think about what you wish to say and why. Answering all these whys is very important as it will assist you in whom to show the work to and create work that matters for the folks who care.

No need to make work for everyone but for the minimum viable audience. You only need maybe ten people who care to start. If you are successful in communicating and what you create speaks to that community and they enjoy what you did they might tell another ten folks and before long you have a few raging fans or collectors. It sure makes it easier to sell work or submit pieces to art shows, galleries, art shops, and online platforms if you have some idea what your work might say or how it is read and knowing your “why”. A great book on the topic is “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” by Simon Sinek listed below.

.All of this might take a while to work out and you may ask other how it is read. I would suggest not asking friends and family, as they will lie to you to just make you feel better and not enjoy being honest if they believe what they truly think might cause you to have a bad time. So I would have some folks you might not know, who might be the ideal person the work is for, to give you feedback. Social media groups are real helpful in this area at times. Then, take what those folks say and go back and rework things and show them again. At this point it might be fine to start submitting work to a few shows and galleries as their feedback can be helpful in knowing what they belive you need to improve on, and how well your work is communicating.

After looking at some of your strongest work from way back you might now be able to see some type of themes throughout them all. A cohesive body of art will start to filter out and you will be able to start to see similarities between pieces in a few different ways. At this time it might be good idea to now emphasize those similarities a bit more while at the same time keeping what you wish to say to who in view. Now go make a bunch more work with your discovery of the themes in mind and repeat the process, and then show that finished work that matters to those people who care. You may not get it correct every time, and you may need you to rework things and not feel good about it, but do not stop! Creating work and finishing things no matter how poorly they turn out is far better than all those who simply thought about making work but never did! You’re doing great!!!

 

Layer Up Like An Onion

After practicing your techniques and skills and messing up a lot real bad and taking the least bad that are now good and finding the commonalities it is time to build creating art and a cohesive body of work that is created for a specific reason , with a specific goal, that might say a specific thing to a specific group, to the least viable audience. Since there are a million ways and combinations this may feel overwhelming at first but after you work it out a few times you will become much better at it. For me personally I enjoy layering the work up with technique and meaning so that I am able to communicate with my audience I am trying to reach.

Others may simply have one of two layers to enjoy communicating simplicity. I find it easier to make a list with columns on a paper with those things that you found common in your work. Then list out the thing you might like to say to who using the many techniques, subject manner, lighting, line, sound, symbols, texture, patterns, planes, shape, depth, height, weight, size, history, research, and many other ways to communicate. To me personally good art is simply a form that communicates clearly and/or in some interesting way. Next layer things up in a way that communicates best based on the goals you are trying to achieve.

It is possible to become cluttered and have to much going on in the work to where it is a distraction. But if you chart out the project first you can begin to add or subtract even before you begin taking the time in constructing the actual body of work. At this point it might be good to make up a few small samples, test pieces , or studies to work out a cost analysis and to decide how many to make in the collection on the particular topic and also to begin to help visualize what it might look like.

Can you see the collection in your mind? Visualize how it might be if you walked though a room at a gallery or shop that was filled with your work. How would you want it to feel to the viewer? What can be done to make an impact or to communicate what you might like to say? Once you are able to visualize it in your mind then you might be able to have a better feel for how to set up the collection and the way it communicates. Also think how it can communicate on other platforms, like when on a website for example. How will you shoot photos? What feeling do you want the online viewer to have as they click though the gallery?


Do The Work

With all the planning and testing completed it is now time to do the hard work of doing the work. Actually doing the work can be the most challenging part as many things will start to crop up on why we should not do the work. A lot of resistance and issues will arise that will give us excuses not to complete the project. Self-doubt, imposter syndrome, material issues, issues with technique, and other set backs will stop by every day for coffee but keep going!

After some time when you reached the amount of work that you planned for make a few extra pieces so you have the option to choose what to use to fill out a showing. It is also at this point of doing the work you might want to show others who care about what you are doing what you are working on to build interest and excitement about the project. It might even benefit you to post updates to your email list or do social media posts and live streams of the process to get those who care invested in what you are created and trying to communicate. It is my belief that the total work is the planning, the construction, the showing, and the buyer enjoying it .

Doing the work might take days months or years but be sure at this stage to have good project management as no collection is complete if it is only partially done. And remember at times done is better then perfect. While it is very important to pay attention to details, fine craftsmanship , and technique do not let waiting to release the work until it is perfect become an excuse. Keep working though the dips, both the good times and bad, and wrangle it out.

Doing the work is the most intense part and can be a struggle but keep climbing the mountain. While doing the work take small breaks at certain planned stages along the way to review what you are doing and that you are staying on message and reaching your goals. Reward yourself at certain stages and be kind to yourself. Creating a cohesive body of work is no easy task and sharing work that matters with people who care can feel like your are exposing yourself some to the world but push on you almost are ready to put on the finishing touches and show your work as a collection!


Show The Work

Great job! You did it! Now you have a bunch of work sitting around your studio, basement , or in storage. Now it is time to show your work to people who care if you have not started the process already. Take all that work someplace and set it up and look at the collection all together if you can and start to decide which work should be shown together, separate, or not at all. Some pieces will be stronger then others so take note on those things and why to remember for next time. It might be beneficial at this point to create an artist statement about the work for promoting the work and explaining the project, technique, and ideas and also some background about yourself.

Depending on the platform you might be able to get help with these types of statements based on what the gallery or selling platform requires. It might be beneficial to see how other artists have gone about this process. Planning this all out now will help later and make things run more smoothly if you work should be accepted into a gallery or on a platform for a show. There are a verity of ways to show a collection of work to people who care and one way would be to find a gallery or selling platform that might be a good fit for you and can help you show your collection to people who care. Like writers you should ready yourself for rejections, these rejections can be beneficial as they can provide feedback on what you might need to think about when creating. On the other hand the work and message you are tying to tell may not simply be for them or a good fit so keep going and try not to feel down about things. You have created a cohesive body of work and that is far better then all those who simply just sat and thought about it but did nothing.

Some may disagree, but you may need to separate yourself from your work in your mind so that you are able to sell it better. Your work is not you but simply an extension. Just because others might misunderstand, misinterpret, or simply dislike the body of work that does not mean they dislike you personally. I try not to take anything personally and if others reject the work it simply was into for them. However, if your goal was to agitate or upset and you caused a ruckus then congratulations your cohesive body of art work is working!


Ways Around Gatekeepers

Think of different ways around gatekeepers. Many might say they enjoy the work you do but have no room or you may not get into shows due to other reasons due to a jury rejection. I have heard some artists being rejected for the way their booth looked or how their set up or display was done. If needed work on what they suggest if you need to but also work to break though the gatekeepers. One way to work around gatekeepers is to build your own community of people who care and collect your work.

If a ten year old girl in Tennessee can gain one million subscribers on social media doing a milkcrate challenge then you as an artist should be able to muster up a few hundred or thousand people who care. Like the old music industry that refused to change and went bankrupt, or the book industry, you can also like the song writers, producers, singers, and writers; have opportunities to put your work into the world in many different ways on different platforms to reach those people who care.

There are some challenges you will need to work though but once overcome can give you leverage in promoting your work and speaking what you wish to say. While they are helpful, you no longer absolutely need galleries, art shows, shops, or the old ways to show your work to the world. You can do all of that with your own website or online shop. Size does not matter. A person can buy a car and have it brought to their house and a 52 inch tv shipped to their doorstep. So times have changed and your thinking as an artist may need to also to take advantage of these great opportunities that you now have available to show your work.


What Are You Waiting For?

Time is short and the only thing we never get back and you are the only one who can best tell your message and story to the world though your work!  At the time of writing this if I live to be 86 I only have 14,104 days left. If you do not tell your story someone else will and it might not be the story you want told in the way they tell it. I hope you found some of this helpful and can better  plan in creating your art in a more cohesive way that you can feel great about and also work your buyers enjoy! Below is a reading list of books that I found helpful. I recive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articals because I enjoy helping folks just like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got somthing out of it feel free to check out my gallery and shop or just say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.

 

Here are some great books I have read!

Seth Godin:

The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. 
This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.
Purple Cow.

Stephen Pressfield:

The War of Art
Do The Work

Simon Sinek:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Steve Blank:

The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company
The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that Win

Free Class:

How to Build a Startup

Donald Miller:

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
Hero on a Mission: A Path to a Meaningful Life
Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More

Joseph Campbell:

The Power of Myth

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Victor Frankl:

Man’s Search for Meaning.

 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.

 

“I plied the fire with fresh fuel round the outside and upon the top, till I saw the pots in the inside red-hot quite through and observed that they did not crack at all. When I saw them clear red, I let them stand in that heat about five or six hours, till I found one of them, though it did not crack, did melt or run; for the sand which was mixed with the clay melted by the violence of the heat, and would have run into glass if I had gone on; so I slacked my fire gradually till the pots began to abate of the red colour; and watching them all night, that I might not let the fire abate too fast, in the morning I had three very good (I will not say handsome) pipkins, and two other earthen pots, as hard burnt as could be desired, and one of them perfectly glazed with the running of the sand.”   –  The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. By Daniel Defoe.


You can do it! Many who wish to make pottery might be deterred by thinking they need a pottery wheel, kiln, or other equipment to start making pots. But the truth is all you need is a lump of clay and your imagination, and you can make your very first pottery projects. If Robinson Crusoe, who was stranded on an island made pots, so can you!  It is so easy a caveman can do it! Wait…they did!  In this post, I will give you a few tips on how all of that can be done and in no time flat, you will be spending your Saturday afternoon creating clay projects you never thought possible. You already took the first step by thinking about it and now the next step would be getting a ball of clay to start with. You will not be able to use these low fire pots for food items, but we can make little planters and other projects.  So first, let’s find a little ball of clay.




The Beginning: Find Some Clay.

“Help! But what type of clay should I use?” I am glad you asked! Since we will be going caveman style, we will use types of clay that you can “bake” at low temperatures. And like Robinson Crusoe, we will start with earthenware. Earthenware is a bit more delicate than stoneware, but it is good enough to start with and practice with. A person starting out can also use raku clay. Raku clay is clay that is intentionally mixed so it can handle “thermal shock” or extreme changes in temperatures of hot and cold without cracking or blowing up. Raku clay also “bakes” at low temperatures. You might also find clay near riverbanks or in the ground. Wild clay needs a bit of testing first and for this project, we will only be using clay that we know will work out. Earthenware clay can be bought at local craft stores or your local pottery supply store. Raku clay also can be bought online or at clay supply stores but is a bit harder to find. So, once you have your box of clay, you now are ready to do the next step. Open the box or bag and scoop out a 1-pound ball of clay.



Step Two: Make a Little Ball.

Congratulations! I am super proud of you! You just went from thinking about making something in clay to doing it! Amazing! Now you need to decide what to make. There are millions of things you can make, but no need to worry about them all and get distracted and overwhelmed. I think for your first project you should make a little pinch pot planter for your aunt Joan. You could put a succulent in it and give it as a gift. She will love it! Now compress the clay into a tight ball. If the clay cracks or is a bit dry, you can put a tiny amount of water on it and knead it in until it is soft and workable. In my opinion, it should be just a bit stiffer than bread dough. Compress and slap the clay to get all the air pockets out and form the little lump of clay into a ball. Now give yourself a thumbs up! You did it!

 



Step Three: Make a Pinch Pot.

Take your thumb that you gave thumbs up with and push it into the center of the clay ball. You only want to push your thumb about ¾ of the way in and not all the way though. The idea is to scoop out the clay gently while rotating the ball. Work the lump of clay by using your thumb to even out the sides. Be sure you get the bottom even also; if there are thick parts, it may take a longer time to dry. It also might not dry evenly. In my opinion, you should take care not to get the top too wide but just wide enough to put in a cute little plant. Now once both the sides and bottom are even, set the pot aside and have a look! You did great! If the pot has cracks, you can take a tiny bit of water and smooth out the rim and edges. Below is a nice video on how to make up your pinch pot.

 




Step Four: Make Three More.

Make three more little cute pots because pottery is about learning through messing up. One of your pinch pots might crack drying, another might crack when you accidentally drop it or when it is fired. But no worries! Making more pots means that you get practice at making pinch pots and by the time you form ten pots, you will be far better at it than what you made at pot one! Now line all the little pots up and have a look at them. They are the very first pots you have made, and you should be proud of them as no matter how good or terrible you think they look, you have met the goal of simply making a pot and you are much further ahead of folks who simply thought about making a clay pot and never did! I’m so proud of you! But these pots are a real snooze fest and in-order to keep awake for the rest of the project and to make the pots look a bit more interesting, we need to do a bit of decorating.

 

 

Step Five: Decorate Your Pots.

Now just like there are a million ways to make a pot, there are a million ways to decorate one. So, for this project, we will simply make impressions in the little clay pots. You can use plants, stones, tree bark, and many other found objects to make texture patterns and impressions. When making impressions, be sure to hold the pot on the inside and not press too hard as you do not want to deform the pot. Press in things as much or as little as you like and when you are all done, line them up and look at the cute little designs you have made on them. Your Aunt Joan will love them! Now we move on to the next step as we need to let them dry.

 




Step Six: Dry Your Pots.


Drying pots is easy because it does not require you to do much of anything. If the walls and base of the pots are even, things should dry out in a few days. As they dry, they will get more delicate, so handle them like eggs. The stages of drying are what pottery folks call leather hard and bone dry.  “Leather hard” is when the clay is not fully dry but is quite hard. At this point, folks trim pots and also carve. At the “bone dry” stage, there is very little moisture left in the clay and the pot is completely dry. In most clays you will notice a color change. Dry the little pots in an area that has good circulation. You could put them in the sun, but for this beginner project, we want them to dry a bit slower so they do not dry too fast and crack. If possible, you could carefully turn the little pots upside down and let them fully dry. If the edges are delicate, leave them right side up, but rotate them a bit every few hours. If you forget, it’s fine, but be sure your pot is not stuck to anything as it shrinks when it dries, and you do not want cracks. Your pots will be dry when they are bone dry. An easy way to tell if your pot is dry is to carefully pick them up and touch them on your cheek. If they still feel cold, they may need to dry a bit more. Rotate them around and expose them to air. When your pots are completely dry, they are now ready to fire!




Step Seven: Get Ready to fire!

Now this takes a bit of research, but don’t be scared! Just like there are a million ways to make and decorate a pot, there are a million ways to fire a pot. If you are just a kid getting into art, you will need an adult to help you with this part as fire is very dangerous and can cause a lot of damage. So, for the love of all that is holy, check with your local authorities about what you are permitted to do and not do. Be sure to follow all laws and safety standards around fire safety. Be sure to fire in a safe place where it is not windy. Plan a way to put out the fire if things go bad. I do not want to see anyone in the news. So, after learning about fire safety and the laws and regulations, we can get ready to fire. For this example, we are going to pit fire. Get a shovel and meet me back here so we can get to it.



Step Eight: Dig a Hole.


Scrape the area 3-foot around your pit so small leaves and sticks do not catch fire from your pit. Use the shovel or some tool to dig a hole. You want the hole to be as deep as your elbow and wide enough on the edges to place all your pots in with a bit of space around each one. The idea is to have a dry hole, dry burnables, dry wood, and dry pots. Place some burnables in the hole and do some burning to dry the hole out some. You can use sawdust. You can get bags of sawdust at the hardware store or at pet supply shops. One bag should be good enough. Place the pots on the edge of your little hole and rotate them to start to slowly heat them up. Use gloves to place in your pots. Place larger pieces of wood on top like you are going to have a campfire. In the video below, this lady fires pots like Robinson Crusoe did. At 19:30 in the video below, she warms them up and places the pots in the fire!

 


Can I Make Pottery in my fire pit?  You Bet!

 



Step Nine: Light the Fire.

Carefully move all burnables like left over saw dust, leaves, and dry wood from the area and place them where they will not catch fire. Carefully light the fire like you are at camp. Add on more wood slowly and let the fire burn all the way down into the pots and in the hole. Never leave a fire unattended! Let the fire burn out. When the pots are cool enough, pull them out with a pair of gloves. When you tap the pot carefully, you should hear a ring that will tell you if your pot at least has reached a temperature to harden it enough.



 

Step Ten: Clean the Pot.

When the pots are cool enough to hold with your hand, clean the pots up with water and a Brillo pad, wiping off all the ash and dirt that might be on it. Congratulations! You just made your first pots without a kiln. Now go buy some succulents and put them in your pots and give them to your aunt Joan as a gift! She will love them! I recive no payments or kickbacks from posting this material. I write these articals because I enjoy helping folks just like you at no cost. If you enjoyed this post and got somthing out of it feel free to check out my gallery and shop or just say hello at creekroadpottery@gmail.com.



 

Written By,
Al Wayman
Artist/Owner
Creek Road Pottery LLC

Edited by:
Erika Sickler
Content Writer/ Editor
Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for our newsletter and become a raging fan.




 

You Can Do It!

By firing manual you can get to know your kiln, better understand the firing process, and even manipulate the work by making changes to the firing schedule. This is good practice especially for beginners learning the firing process and firing techniques. It is my opinion that when firing out work in a kiln you need to be there through the whole process as it’s like giving birth. It is quite simple to do but just takes a bit of monitoring and being able to see the correct cones inside the kiln when it is hot and knowing when to shut the kiln off or start the warm down.

The Sermon

Even though many kilns are digital or use a cone sitter, I am a hardcore manual kiln fire guy. Which means I fire all my kilns , even bisque fire, with shelf cones. Now I will not preach at you like a baptist minister if you choose to fire digital shut off or use a sitter, but in my opinion you are depending on luck to shut down each load. Mistakes like putting in the wrong cone number digitally, wrong hold time, improper sitter set up, improper cone set up in the sitter, or the sitter cone melting in a strange way and not shutting down all can cause a kiln to over fire. I witnessed a kiln melt down when I was a young wart hog and ever since fired manual. Kilns can be like children playing in a sandbox next to the road. For the most part they will be fine but if you forget to check on them in no time flat they will be out playing in traffic. You do not want your kiln to be out playing in traffic. Forgetting your kiln could result in a melt down where all the work shelves and posts become like taffy stuck in there. If you simply do a google search for kiln meltdown you will see some amazing images of things that happened when folks had a bad time with their kilns. You will still have a bad time with your kiln even if monitoring it but those bad times will be less painful and disaster averted by taking corrective action. Amen.

Proper Setup

It depends on what types of shelf cones you have. Cones measure both temperature and work heat. If you use a pyrometer to check your kiln, you will only know temperature. Pyrometers do not measure work heat. Some shelf cones need to be placed in a cone pack while others are self standing. I like to use self standing cones in the peepholes and place them on a small piece of kiln shelf or post. When placing them in the cone pack, be sure to research the recommended angle by the cone manufacture. I set the cone almost to the edge of the shelf, so they are easy to see inside when things heat up, and it all looks the same color. At high temperature, you might be able to make out just a slight outline. Some say not to place it near posts or near elements, but I like it right out in front. Be sure your cone will not attach its self to a pot when it bends, cones like personal space.

Looking in There

When things heat up hotter than a goats butt in a pepper patch it might be hard to see the cone. When you look in there it is best to use welding glasses as you do not want to damage your eyes over the long run. Also, if firing with gas pull the plug and wait a bit as if the kiln is in reduction you may have flames shooting out the peephole. So when you look in there be aware of that flame or you can lose eyebrows or catch your good flannel shirt on fire. Now look in there real slow and find the outline. I try and place the cones in front of a pot to see it better. Another technique is to shine a flashlight in the and have the light reflect off the cone. You can also blow into the hole to slightly cool the cone to see the outline. At times if I was not sure and cold not see it I shut down the kiln to be surer than restarted.

Reading the Cone

Be sure to look at the chart put out by the cone manufacture. Orton has a free chart that you can download here.

Also, be sure to check the cone manufacture bend chart. You can see an example here.

Checking the Kiln

Each kiln is different But here is the schedule I use for both bisque and glaze fire to cone 5/6 when firing manual.

Hour 1 & 2 – Check each hour
Hour 3&4 – Check each 30 min
Hour 5 to Cone Drop – Check every 15 min

Below are some examples and tips on what the cone will look like inside the kiln and suggestions on when you might want to shut it down.

When to Shut It Down

Each kiln is different and the rate of the cone drop will change based on temperature and work heat.

If you have the cone that matches the firing, say a cone 5 shelf cones and you want a cone 5 firing, you want to shut it down at the slight bend.

Below is what a slight bend looks like base off the recommended bend chart of Orton.

If you have the cone that matches the firing, a cone 5 shelf cone, and you want a cone 5.5 firing, you want to shut it down at the half bend.
I go to the half bend for most of my firings. By going to the half bend you can properly bring to temperature shelves that may be running a bit cooler slightly.
A half bend for a cone 5.5 firing will look like this:

If you have cone 5 shelf cones and would like a cone 6 firing, you would do a full cone bend. It will look like this:

If you are all out of cones and only have a cone 5 shelf cones and would like to fire to cone 6.5 you would do a full bend plus 15 min.
It will look like this:

If you missed a check because you fell a sleep or the cows got out you can still tell about how much time you missed as you will have hard full bends and soft full bends. A soft full bend the cone will look like melted chocolate but be blistered and bubbled out but not a puddle. It will look a bit like below. Here I was out of cone 6 but used a cone 5 plus 30 min to reach a cone 7 for a bottom shelf. So I intentionally over fired to bring to temp a cone 7 glaze test on a bottom shelf.

All the checks might seem excessive, but help to catch mistakes early and also allow you to make correction. In my gas kilns I can see if the kiln is heating correctly, if the firing is going to slow or fast based on color. Also, when testing firing techniques or a new shelf configuration, how big or small the load is or doing holds. All the checks paid off and saved loads and prevented over fires. I have over fired, but only from falling a sleep and missing the last 15 min. Thank goodness my wife woke me and I only lost 1 shelf of pots to blistering. You can also check cone that did not bend to get an idea of how much off you were on the under fire. A cone that did not bend but at all might be like glass and have gloss say it was close to reaching temperature for example.

Do you fire digital or manual? Do you have any questions about firing manual? Let me know!

Al Wayman
Artist/ Owner

Creek Road Pottery LLC

If you enjoyed this post and are a lover of pottery, sign up for my newsletter and become a raging fan.