“It may not be good, but there are no lies in it.” – Ethan Hawke

So firing 70 was good. Maybe my prostrating and carefully jinx-free statements sufficiently placated the kiln gods. Or maybe drilling out the pilot burner head was a long time coming, and had finally hit the breaking point, and I successfully reset that clock. Or maybe it just wasn’t so fucking windy this time.

Maybe some of all the above. Maybe none of it.

It occurs to me that every glaze firing is a series of questions. Aesthetic questions, technical questions, strategic questions. Questions written out in the vocabulary of three dimensional, semi-refractory materials. And fire. And time.


Will these porcelain vases fit under an 8” brick instead of 7”? And if so, do I have a corresponding set of 5” posts, so I can lower the shelf above to match? And can I get them all in the middle and back, since they bloat in the front? And if so, what’s going in front? I’m out of tall stoneware stuff? More stacks? Ugh… have I worn out this stacks idea or am I just tired of it?

Will this glaze work in zone D? Is this new batch of amber celadon the same consistency as the old one; and what’s the point of a hydrometer when I only have a cupfull of glaze left? Why am I still getting blistering in some spots? Goddamn ceramic supervirus is what that is. If I cool off from peak temp a little slower, or in a few stages, will that fix it? Or just change other variables, like clay and slip colors? If I’m reducing more with the new stack, does it matter if it’s early reduction vs. late reduction? Which does each of those effect? How could I find out without bugging yet another “friend” on the Internet?

What are my glazes going to do with all these holes? I mean, could it actually work to get some of them to fill in with glaze? Celadon, more likely, because it’s running more lately… not sure why Amber isn’t. Maybe it’s that thinned batch, from when I was getting all that damn blistering. Oh — hold the phone — what about GR2BLK? Now that could be stellar. Or terrible; it’s hit or miss on #257. OK, let’s compromise and I’ll just test it. I didn’t like this vase when I made it — a throw away why the hell not experiment — so why not sacrifice it as a test, too? So: two amber, on celadon. Yeah? Dumb? Maybe.

How thick to repeat just that much drip and bleed? A second longer? Two? Or same plus a little sweeter on the rim? And with so little Amber left, can I just brush in some of the spots I can’t dip? That probably won’t work, right? I’m doing it anyways. [ed. note: It didn’t work.] Shit — can I possibly get it loaded in time to mix up a new batch, so I can test it in this one and then have it available in #71, if it works? I really need to do that. Shit.

Wait — do I even like this pattern anymore? Am I a pattern-seeking, path of least resistance robot when I try to just get it all done quick like this? At what cost, Scott, at what cost? Dummy. Why is my greenware slip more reddish-orange now and is that OK, or do I need to work to get it back to mostly white? I deliberately did a lot more surface deco at the green stage this winter, but now I’m hardly using any of my bisk “75/25” flashing slip, and I love that slip. Is that a mistake? And why didn’t I make any domino patterns yet — I still love domino pattern — and how in the hell did my making cycle just end so abruptly and what was I thinking back in March?

Also how did I manage to get out of the waxing rut? I mean, it seems like I used to spend hours waxing. Maybe that first firing — of considering them all to be lambs to the slaughter of the new stack, and not caring so much exactly where the liner glaze got to — trained me to just do it better, or to be OK with wiping it off, or leaving those stray drips as process marks? Can I really plan, glaze and wad an entire load in a single day?

Can I scrape the wash off that kiln shelf and flip it without spitting specs of it on half the load? And if I do, will that awful warp gradually flatten out, or will it just crack? And is the risk of that worth getting this one, that’s still perfectly flat but has two nauseating cracks that have almost come together at the center, out of the rotation?

So did the drilling fix the burner? Because that was a stressful pain in the ass. I’m so awful with mechanical stuff. Hilariously bad. Lucky I didn’t snap something wrestling with those two pipe wrenches after a completely exhausting day at 8 at night. Or drill a fucking hole in my hand or something. Will it stay on this time? Will the wind forecast be accurate when it matters? Will that change the heat distribution in the kiln, and if so, how? Do I even care about my 3+ cone difference, if almost all the pots are good? How does more BTUs through the burner relate to the damper setting? And the wind, right? Open more if it’s calm? But what about barometric pressure? And the flame path through the slightly different shelf stack? And… I don’t know, Libras and moonbeams and shit?

Am I crazy, or has the new stack shifted a little? I mean, away from the kiln? Is it still plumb? If not, do I really want to go get my level and find out? (And when will I have time to get more gravel to spread around here, before the spring grass consumes everything?) Should I bother to replace this roof metal; eleven years old and going; or just ride it out two or three more years? (What’s the ROI on anything when the hourly wage is slightly above indentured servitude?)

Should I set my alarm for 3am, to go candle the pilot? Or will I wake up to pee? (Who am I kidding?) Where did I have the damper set at this point last time? Why is it only going at 2.1º/min when in #69 it was 2.5º/min? How far am I falling behind, and is it stupid to try to hit a specific shutoff time? Alternately, why am I such a terrible father that I can’t get up early enough to be absolutely sure this thing is off before bedtime stories? I could candle at 1 and get up at 3, instead of 3 and 5. Nah. Hey — surely it’s a good sign to have an entire family of deer go springing through the back yard during a firing — right? Please?

Oh shit, what was that sound? Dare I go in for lunch? It’s been 15 minutes lying here with my eyes closed — do I need to go check if the burner is still on again? If I don’t power nap for at least a moments’ unconsciousness, will I make it to 6pm with my brain on? Oh, why is UPS here when I was “good” enough to avoid ordering anything from Amazon this week? Oh yeah — pots!

Let’s say it goes off again… OK, it’s probably going to go off again — OK, it’s probably going to go off and this time, for unknown reasons, stay off — how crazy would it be to C-clamp that sucker open for a couple hours at the end, like I read on clayart? I mean: completely crazy, or just-desperate-enough crazy?

Is that stacked jar whose base was a little narrower than the rim of the one below it going to fall as the wads shift? If so, did I remember to aim it’s lean at the wall, instead of into the middle? Why can I not remember all this stuff when it matters? Have I inhaled too much copper glaze dust? Maybe it’s not smart to work 28 days in a row without a break, except for two days spent being sick? (What’s the ROI on days “off” when you barely make any money from the days “on”, anyways?)

Jesus, how am I out of newspaper? Can I put the salt in these cheap little brown lunch sacks instead of the hassle of rolling it up in newspaper? OMG, the salt rolls up in these cheap little brown lunch sacks perfectly — how in the living fuck did I not think of this before? Wait… this is probably going to bite me in the ass later; what am I missing? Screw it; I can’t live my life in fear! (Can I?)

Time to salt! Woo hoo! Maybe I should use some little sticks, to poke the packets in towards the back wall, so it’s not so heavy in front? Yeah, let’s do that. Smoke! Fire! Oh, hey, I guess I could make my first foray into video with a quick, Vine-ish shot of the salt smoke coming out the stack? Yeah? Let’s do it. Who cares? Why not? OK, I can think of a million reasons why not, but FILDI — I’m too tired to stop myself.

(Hmm… maybe an Internet connection at the studio while firing isn’t such a good idea after all.)

OK, I think it’s done. Is it done? Yes, I want it to be done. Ramp it down this time. Take your time. Pizza? Oh hell yeah. Long enough? OK: Gas off, quick damper shut. Is it shut all the way? Yeah. OK, seal up the port. Why does the worst sweatiest part have to come at the very end? Because life, dude. Imagine 99.7% of potters who ever lived laughing their assess off at how good you have it; two minutes in front of a hot burner port. Wanh. Passives out — isn’t it cool that I have passives now, like a “real” potter? OK, burner check? Spies check? Chimney check? Area check? Is anything going to burn down in the next hour if I go take a shower and lay myself out? No? No. I’ll come back and be sure.

Ten minutes later…

Do I get to open it up yet?

#70: vases

A photo posted by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on