First firing wrap up

The terra sig I made up last week and fired this weekend didn’t turn out like I expected. The color is nice, a really creamy white, but I was hoping for a pure white. I know I put together a bright white a few years ago; apparently I didn’t right down the recipe where I could find it again. The texture was also a bit disappointing. There seemed to be a lot of large particles in the sig, which surprised me. I thought I was really careful when siphoning off the settled mixture.

My next sig will be an XXSagger (this one was a Gold Art). I may try and get my hands on a different deflocculant too. For the Gold Art I used epsom salt, which seems to be less favored among potters who use terra sigs than some other things.

Sunday I tried smoking the terra sig. I couldn’t find the instructions I wanted, the ones I read on how to do this a few weeks ago. I started with the largest piece of the work which blew up in the firing. I laid some butternut squash peels, corn husks and newspaper over the shard and wrapped it in tinfoil. This is what came out:

shard.jpg

The dark brown, glossy areas are the burned out red underglaze.

I turned the lower section of the kiln on medium and checked the tinfoil saggar at half an hour. When I looked in I saw the the second element up from the bottom was not hot. I’m not surprised one of the elements is bad on a kiln this old. The elements themselves are pretty crusty. I called Euclids for a quote on new elements, which will run me about $140 ($38 for four elements, minus a 10% discount for buying a full set). I also learned while talking to the element man that my kiln — a Knight model 103 according to the kiln itself — is missing a section. Model 103 is supposed to have three sections; mine only has two.

I don’t know if I can spring for the new elements right now. The kiln still made it to cone 04, although probably in a very inefficient way. I’ll be eager to see our electric bill this next cycle. After test firing our bill wasn’t any different than normal. This first firing, however, took a lot longer.

Correction: It appears all of the elements actually do function. I’m smoking some more of the terra sigs today and noticed the questionable element was red. Apparently, as I read a couple weeks ago, the kiln’s bottom element fires up before the second from the bottom in order to heat the kiln more evenly.

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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