July 2010

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sunny days

Every summer needs a song…Sunny Days by Jars of Clay.

A week or so ago we experienced our warmest (now there’s an understatement) day on record for the year.  At 6:30 that evening the digital thermometer read 124°F.  We figured the sun was hitting the sensor.  Sure enough, a few minutes later when the shade covered the sensor, the temp took a dramatic dive to 117°F.

In honor or maybe in spite of the occasion, I loaded the kiln to begin creating a little thermal momentum for firing the next day – which, by the way was another scorcher with a little humidity from the monsoon that has yet to truly materialize.

In general, I don’t do a lot of firing in the summers.  My vented kiln is in the studio.  The kiln generates enough radiant heat once it reaches bright orange heat that working in the studio gets a little uncomfortable.

Still, working in the heat isn’t reason enough to avoid firing in the summers.  Really, it’s the feeling that I need to run the air conditioner while the kiln is on so I don’t set off the fire sprinklers.  This is my fear.  I can see it all in my mind…disastrous!  When we began building out this studio, someone relayed a story to me about one of those ‘paint-your-ceramics’ places.  They had loaded the kilns and set them to fire overnight, to be finished and cooling the next day.  Apparently the heat set off the sprinklers and well…disastrous!  Thus, my fear was born.

I’ve been assured that the vented kiln wouldn’t set off the sprinklers.  Really? How do I test that?  Nope.  I turn on the air conditioner with the auxiliary fan – the auxiliary is really just to feed air into the studio because the kiln vent pulls air into and through the kiln, then vents it to the outside.  In addition, I turn on a standing oscillating fan just to keep the air moving.  I realize this is probably over-kill.  But, I haven’t had a heat related incident.

However, all that pushing, pulling and cooling of air raises the cost of firing.  I’m a bit frugal.  Whether out of necessity, habit or desire, I cringe at the added cost of running the air.  Not an “I’m losing profits” sort of cringe – more like, “this is going to be an outrageous electric bill” kind of cringe.

If I have to fire, I try to pack the kiln as tight as possible without compromising the balance of the process to produce quality work.  Still, as deadlines near, I don’t always have much choice if I intend to continue to work with retail outlets and private commissions.  As I look at the next tentatively scheduled firing…hmmm, it’ll still be hot here.

fig.2-7
Update: after additional tests and then a leap of faith, I found one more unexpected materials issue.  This one is an easy fix – just caught me off guard after I thought everything was cooperating.  Lost about 2/3rds of my last load.  Lessons learned.

praying for inspiration
Update: still praying for continued inspiration.  I’ve made progress with my vision and message for the upcoming show.  Still, there’s much more to accomplish.

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