My Ceramic Journey

You may recall that I started making things with air dry clay about two years ago. I enjoy it so much that I find time in the evenings and at weekends to do my clay projects. Some time this year I found myself dissatisfied with my tried-and-tested materials – I longed for that shine we see in ceramics, and greater strength. I also wanted my work to be guaranteed food-safe and waterproof. I have been playing with the idea to build a ceramic collection for my shop, or when I hold a stall, but I don’t feel comfortable selling crockery made of air dry clay so I decided to look into firing my creations instead.

I found a local kiln firing service about 30 minutes drive away, and got a batch of small bowls, dishes, pots, and a mug – a very wonky mug! – bisque fired for the first time. I was very pleased that they came out well, and couldn’t wait to start decorating them.

Painting with underglazes turned out to be quite time consuming. They don’t have quite the same effect as acrylic paint, the application needs several coats to be apparent and I got the impression from ceramic websites that it is normal.

That was around the beginning of September. While painting my first batch, I had the idea that I could try selling ceramic Christmas decorations on my stalls. It is usually easier to judge how well my products are selling in person than on my shop so I wanted to grab the opportunity. I made some circle and star shapes with the help of cookie cutters. The bisque fire went well except for one breakage and then I spent two evenings painting the pieces. Then it was my first time getting my glazed work fired. I was very nervous!

It turned out I was right to be worried. They didn’t come out as I imagined them to look like. There were no serious cracks or explosions in the kiln, but they simply didn’t have that ceramic shine I wanted and the underglazes didn’t look right. I had thrown myself in the deep end not knowing much about ceramics, and I had to find out why they looked dull. After googling I suspect that they were under-fired or I didn’t apply enough overglaze for them to mature in the kiln.

I was extremely deflated. I realised that I picked a hobby that is expensive and challenging. But I am prepared to persist!

I recently found out that there is another local kiln firing service 5-10 minutes drive away – it is either new or I missed it in my original research! So I will be firing my next batch (hopefully with better glaze application) at that place to see if the outcome is the same or not.

I have asked for a good ceramic advice book for Christmas and hope I have better luck next time! Off I go to continue painting my first batch…

Previous posts: Part 1Part 2 | Part 3

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5 comments on “My Ceramic Journey

  1. Fiona

    Oh my gosh, it’s the craziest art form! So many highs and lows and time!! Since having our own kiln, i’ve learnt a little more about firing. For five years I would take our clay to be fired at our local clay store but doing your own firings means you have more control, not only in stacking the kiln (gently!) but also in setting the temperatures. When you paint clay, the paint containers will tell you the firing range (very important!) when you fire below the range, sometimes the colours won’t go off but you can also experience problems by over firing too! Next time you take your clay in, make sure you have a note of what clay you use (clay has different firing temps) and then once you have got your bisque back and are doing the second firing make sure you record what temps the glaze fires at. A good clay store will do separate firings for separate temperatures :) Apologies if you already know all this! I’m just thinking back to my journey and how little I knew (still don’t know too much :P)

  2. Fiona

    Oh and you can get underglazes that need a top coat of clear gloss, or you can just paint with them and have a matte effect after firing. These paints will go on the clay pretty much how they look out of the container. Then there are underglazes that have the gloss mixed in and when you paint them onto the clay, they won’t appear as the final colour. For example our bright glossy red, goes on as a matte grey colour! Also some glazes do need different applications (thick/thin/multiple coats/one coat), I’ve started doing test tiles for this reason but then also different glazes react differently on different clay bodies *breathes out* OH my gosh, there is just too much!! lol It is probably one of the most satisfying mediums just because you have to put some much love into every piece!

    1. Katrina Post author

      Sorry I am late in replying! Thank you thank you for your huge advice, they are so helpful. I haven’t had time to complete glazing my bisque pots since this post, hopefully I will be able to fire them super soon then I’ll share my next update :))

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