Sunday, June 9, 2013

The joy of scraping kiln shelves

They're finally starting to trust me at the school I use as a studio. They let me scrape the kiln shelves and apply kiln wash this week. While I was doing this a woman who in the "class" I am in came up and commented on how valiant I was for doing this thankless task. I was stunned. Maintaining kilns shelves isn't a thankless task. It's required. Poorly maintained kiln shelves can damage your ware. And cost money to replace. I was honored I was able to do this.

The encounter got me thinking about the process of ceramics. Ceramics is a process. I treat it as such. Every step in that process contributes to the final piece. I mix my own glazes because glazes are part of the finished product. Putting a store bought glaze on pot I threw is using someone else's work and calling it my own. It's plagiarism, cheating. The process for me doesn't end when I set my piece out to dry. The process is scraping the kiln shelves, ensuring the kiln shelves have the right thickness of kiln wash. The process is mixing and testing glazes until I have the glazes that match my mind's eye picture of each pot. The process is loading, then firing the kilns, unloading the kilns. The process starts when I buy the clay and ends when the pot has been glazed fired and is cool. I want to own every step in between. If I could dig my own clay and extend the process I would.

Maintaining kiln shelves is as much a part of ceramics as learning to center a ball of clay. If you don't embrace the process you should. I firmly believe the more energy you put into things like maintaining kiln shelves the more joy you will get out of ceramics.

I will be traveling out of country again this Summer. That means I will not be doing any pottery until mid-July at the earliest. This time I have already made arrangements to ensure I have a studio when I get back. Last time I left the country the studio was sold while I was gone. Hope everyone has a great Summer!