A combined bisque and glaze fire

The participants of the ceramics workshop are working toward a Raku firing at the end of June. I made sure to put on a bisque firing of all their work 2 weeks beforehand, so that they will have one class in which to do their glazing before the Raku.

I find opening the kiln after a bisque is just as exciting as opening after a glaze firing, but in more of a relieved way as you discover that yes everything is in one piece and nothing exploded or fell over. There were quite a few “sculpted” pieces in this firing so there was some concern that not everything would survive, so I was delighted to see that everything made it.

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Another reason to celebrate was due to the success of an experiment I tried – that is to combine the bisque firing with a glaze firing. I knew that we didn’t have enough work to completely fill the kiln, so I first loaded a shelf of very flat or short pieces of glazed work at the bottom of the kiln. They didn’t take up much height in the kiln so I knew there would be room for the pieces to be bisqued.

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After loading the kiln, I programmed it to run a bisque firing, which basically translates as a long SLOW raising of temperature, but to continue upwards the extra 120 degrees Celsius needed to reach the low firing glaze temperatures. It was a complete success! On top of that, the glazed pieces look AMAZING as usual hahaha!

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Now that I know this kiln firing program works, in the future if there is not quite enough work for either type of firing I can (carefully) stack the kiln for both types of firing together. It will just take a bit of extra planning to get it right.

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James Hayes

Before and after glazing

I always love to unpack a glaze firing! Seeing the culmination of many weeks of work is quite satisfying, the work of course is always BEAUTIFUL, and for comparison I take before and after photos. So here are the latest firing photos:

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The difference from flat, pale colours to vibrant and glossy is amazing! The students really have to trust that the colours will turn out as they plan.

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I am particularly pleased with the seashell tile above as the student had to work with many different glazes to achieve the combination of colours she wanted.

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It is always worth taking a closer look at the finished effects, and I always make sure to quiz the students on what combinations of glazes they used, and encourage them to make note of the successful ones that they will want to replicate in the future.

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This shelf has some nice Xmas themed plates

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I can see already that this person may want to re-glaze the green on the holly leaves. The great thing about this process is that it isn’t just once off, you can always try glazing and firing again – within limits of course as some glazes do react badly to repeated re-firing.

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The circular piece above right has coloured glass melted into different sections, with a hole at one end so that it can hang on the wall. The rectangular piece above left has little squares that were individually painted to create the checkered field of colours – talk about patience and steady hands!

All the plates with the yellow tulips are part of a set. Each one is first drawn onto the plate and then the areas are carefully painted in with the correct glaze.

A close up of some very successful textures.

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These 3 bowls used combinations of very runny glazes to great affect. As always the students and I had a debriefing in class to help them understand which glaze combinations worked best and why.

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James Hayes