It was a miserable wet Sunday in Sydney and the perfect day for firing my kiln for the first time. As many long time readers of my blog will know this has been a long time coming. I bought this kiln in an Ebay bidding frenzy a few years back, before I had a studio, and it has been stored in my Mum’s garage until late last year when it was installed in my little shed.
I have already admitted to be a ‘fraidy cat’ when it comes to firing and to honest I don’t know why I was so fearful about this side of ceramics. At university students had to organise their own firings whether going solo or fitting in with a group firing; at TAFE it’s a little different, you can book kilns but there are always a variety of firings happening and all you have to do is leave your objects on the appropriate shelves and they will be stacked in the kiln by our wonder studio technician Danni.
My escapade started on a Saturday afternoon when I finally pulled out the manual that came with the kiln. With a cup of coffee next to me I began reading and almost immediately shouted “WTF does this mean?”. I could write a whole post about manuals and the people who write them; surfice it to say when writing this instructional tome the author didn’t bother taking into consideration the (I’m assuming large) proportion of readers who just want very simple instructions for a very simple kiln.
I put the manual down and reverted to Professor Google and his sidekick Dr Youtube. Both gave me minimal success with some bright spark posting a 29 second video of the controller of their Duncan kiln. Boring cinematography and of absolutely no use to anyone. After 3 hours of searching the net and trying to understand the manual I temporarily gave up on my quest and went to have a glass of red wine.
Fast forward to the following Wednesday and I’m at TAFE having a whinge to my friends about the woes of kiln firing. Tann pipes up with “Have you tried “Help For Australian Potters – Advice & Tips on Facebook? Maybe post a picture of the kiln and controller and see if anyone can help.” So I did that and amongst the few good folk who answered my cries for help was Jocelyn Hee. We have never met but Jocelyn has my exact kiln and she not only went to the trouble of typing very specific instructions on how to fire it but also gave me her mobile number in case I became stuck. Jocelyn Hee you are my own personal kiln angel and I thank you.
What were the results? After 8 hours the kiln automatically turned off, way too early for the firing to be successful; but at the end of it I felt like Leo DiCaprio on the Titanic shouting “I’m king of the world.”. I had 3 shelves inside the kiln with temperature cones on each shelf so I could understand how the kiln fired and if there are cold/hot spots. The image above shows how the cones looked at the end of the firing.
I don’t really care that it didn’t work because it was a learning exercise and now I understand how the controller operates. It’s wonderful when you conquer your fears because even the small ones can keep you from achieving your goals. and yes Vicki Grima, I feel free, free free.