To Teach, To Learn, To Share

The Firing Stages of Clay

We often talk about firing items in the kiln and such terms such as “ramping up” and “soaking” are bandied about, but what exactly happens when you are firing your kiln?  And what stages are the most crucial?

There are some brilliant articles about the stages of firing, and what happens chemically to your clay as it goes through a firing process.  The article talks about six stages, and it explains it in a really interesting way.

These are very interesting, and written in a way that while it does have some chemistry terms, explains it in an easy to understand way.

Sorry, these articles are no longer available!

June Goodwin getting ready for show

June Goodwin is the hardest working member of our guild.  A lot of days you will find her at the gallery, either teaching or doing our books, as she is our treasurer and general “go to” person.  How she has time to do her own work is beyond us all!  Below is some of her work that has been bisqued and is ready to be glazed.  That is where the magic comes!  Every time we open the kiln, we never know what we will get!  You’ll have to come to our sale to find out!

Click on the image to see a larger version.  The work below includes not only June’s pottery, but our member Barb Zmozynski on our “Newbie” table!

Studio Stories

We thought that you (and our fellow members) would be interested in seeing where the potters that belong to the guild work at creating their wares.   There must be a reason that studio tours are so popular!

We have a few members that have space in our studio, but because a lot of our members have been potters for years, they have been able to carve out a space in their homes where they can work.  In some cases, our potters are full time artists and this is how they make their living, in others, it is a passion that they do in their “spare” time.

I thought I would start us off today.  We hope that you enjoy the peek into where we work, and will find that it doesn’t matter how fancy the space is.

Mary Sullivan

I’m the website designer for the guild and web designing is also my day job.  So I already have a room in my home that I use as my office.  However, when we moved into our home in 2002, I commandeered a spare bedroom that didn’t have carpet or even proper flooring, it has large wooden panels that are painted.  Little by little I have stuffed that poor room with all sorts of art supplies, be it acrylics, beads, paper making, you name it, I have some of that material in my Art Room.  Then the clay started.  I’ve been making sculptures of various things for years.  I took a course many years ago where we sculpted with clay, but we then made a plaster cast of the piece and it was cast in a cement material.  But in 2004 I bought myself my own kiln, as I wanted to make clay sculptures that were fired.

It’s likely not a very healthy idea to work with clay in a bedroom that is across from the room that you sleep in.  Yet I have been doing that for over 8 years now. (oh well, we’ll all die of something)  But the room was getting more and more cramped and I was not able to move or find a place to put down anything.  Plus, I have my kiln out in the garage, my pugmill and extruder in the basement and I found that when I was in my art room I needed something from the garage, or if I wanted to pug some clay for a piece, I had to lug the clay down two flights of stairs, pug it and then lug it back up again.  And clay ain’t light!

This summer I discussed an idea with my husband as it meant taking up a bit more room.  I decided to make a quarter of the basement my pottery studio.  The guild renovated our glaze area and there was an extra table that they were going to return and I promptly bought it.  A friend and I set up the new space and I have to say it is so much easier to be productive now!  I have my dry ingredients for glazes still outside, as it is safer for me to mix them there (you shouldn’t breathe that stuff in!) and the kiln is in the garage too, but everything else is in my space in the basement.  I have one table to work on, right beside my pugmill, so if I need to soften up some clay from the many bags I have (see picture) it is easy to just move over and then start sculpting.  I have a number of drywall boards cut into a manageable size and I place my work to dry (tiles especially, as they will warp if you let them dry without a bit of weight on top) and then they double as trays to take upstairs to load into the kiln!  I have boards with cloth on them, one for white clay and another for brown, and I work on those and can easily swap them around.  I’m close to the sink (it is my laundry room too) and I can rinse down anything to avoid dust.

On the other side of the room is the glazing area.  I have my underglazes on the shelf under the table, and I can quickly bring out the ones I need, and when I’m not glazing I can use this table as a place for some work to dry.

I’m finding myself a lot more productive now that I have all my tools in one place and eventually I will put some shelves up and boards to show my test tiles for easy reference.  I look forward to seeing everyone at the sale, this is my first year back for at least five years.

Pit Fire & Tail Gate Party

The guild’s first-ever pit-fire and tailgate party. What an amazing experience. Eight guild members and a guest met at Dan Ferguson’s farm on a Friday evening to try our hand at doing a pit-fire. Dan directed us to the back of the farm to the “valley”. We had to drive through fields to get there. He then took us step-by-step as to how he prepares and completes the pit. He gently placed all of our work in the pit, slowly covered the work and then ignited the whole thing. It smoked for a while and then burned brightly. After the initial burst of flames, he then covered the pit with sheet metal to burn over night. We then opened up the tailgates of two of the vans and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner. One van had the main course and the other had desert and, of course, wine. Great potluck dinner as usual.

We then returned at noon the following day. The coals had completely cooled down so that we were able to retrieve the pieces without getting burned. And what a surprise. We all got the most gorgeous colours. First piece out was Dan’s bologna pot – he got lots of reds from whatever is in bologna. Thanks to Dan for giving us the wonderful opportunity to try something different. Another learning experience for guild members.

Kawartha Potters' Guild