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…