Kilns!

December 31, 2008

I have no heat or hot water in my apartment so huddling under the laptop and writing about kilns seemed like a good option to start the day in lieu of a proper hot shower.  

Happy New Years Eve to everyone!!  I install in less than a week and I’m horrifically unprepared so I doubt I’ll be doing anything special myself, but get out there and ring in the new year!  Have an extra drink of bubbly on my behalf!  The high tonight in Boston is supposed to be 10 degrees (it’s snowing right now with expected accumulation of 4-6 inches) so in some ways I’m perfectly OK with staying in and working tonight.

Holidays aside, things are a bit hectic–I have an impossible amount to do in a very short amount of time, and I may have already resigned myself to just not having as strong a piece as I would like.  At this point I feel more like a spectator than an actually conscious decision making creator of things.  What I can get done, will get done, what I can’t, won’t.  I’m just sort of watching to see how it all plays out in the end.  It’s a shame the piece had to change so drastically mid-way through my production time line.  If I had known this was how things would work, I would have planned it all very very differently.  I have so many ideas about how this piece could be really great, but no time to actually execute any of them.  Sad.

With such a short amount of time left until the opening, I might try to write a quick entry every day to catch this guy up to where the actual process is.  This kiln entry is technically from the 22nd–right before I went home to Virginia for a couple days of holiday break.

Kilns!  A mobile phone visual essay:

The Bottom Shelf, pieces loaded vertically on their edges, leaning against kiln bricks

The Bottom Shelf, pieces loaded vertically on their edges, leaning against kiln bricks.

I've tried several different layouts but setting them on edge is definitely the most space efficient

I've tried several different layouts but setting them on edge is definitely the most space efficient

The electric kiln line up.  All the gas, raku and soda kilns are in another part of the room.

The electric kiln line up. All the gas, raku and soda kilns are in another part of the room.

So yeah, tiles on edge in the kiln is easily the best way to cram a bunch in.  Unfortunately, they’re still so big that they don’t fit particularly efficiently and the whole round kiln full of rectangular objects thing doesn’t really help.  This firing was the first time I tried loading them vertically and that was both good and bad.  On the one hand, it fits the kiln slightly more efficiently than loading them horizontally–there’s about 75 in this kiln and if I had done them all horizontally, I would have only been able to fit… oh… 40 or 50 maybe.  The huge (and fairly important!) drawback is sagging.  When loading them horizontally in the past, they may have sagged a little, but it wasn’t all that noticeable.  The 8 1/4″ height seems to be about as much as the porcelain can handle–once they go vertical, the 10 3/4″ height is too much and they warp pretty dramatically.  You can actually see in the second photo, especially the piece on the top left, how curved it is.  Those were all fairly flat when I loaded them!  So it’s kind of a toss up… quality vs. quantity is continuously the big question with this project.  I think on my next load, I’ll try the biggest electric kiln and see if I can fit 3 shelves horizontally rather than 2 vertically in this medium size one.  Hopefully that will solve the problem…

And for those of you that don’t really know what I’m talking about, clay bodies go through a final plastic stage in the kiln while firing.  Porcelain is especially susceptible to this.  For example, if you make a figure with an arm sticking out, you can usually get away with firing it without a support under the arm if you’re firing at lower temperatures and using anyclay body other than porcelain.  If you put the same figure in the kiln made of porcelain, when it’s at its peak temperature, the porcelain actually becomes viscous again and will succumb to gravity, bending the arm downwards if it’s unsupported.  This is always a big problem for people making plates or wide bowls in porcelain.  You have to be really careful about the structural integrity of pieces that are going to end up fighting gravity in the kiln.  Nothing is worse than working really hard building up a beautiful gravity defying piece of ceramic and then taking it out of the kiln only to find it has slumped and all that hard work was for nothing.  So that’s basically what’s happening here.  These pieces have too much surface area with no structure so they just slump, giving every single tile a nice bow to it…  Typically, an easy way around this is to just fire the tiles totally flat, but that is unbelievably wasteful of kiln space and just not worth it in this instance.

We’ll see how the next load in a larger kiln goes…

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure: Cracks!

New Statement

December 22, 2008

I forgot!  I meant to post my New Title and Artist Statement last week and kept forgetting about it! 

After speaking with Dan about all the revisions to the installation of my piece (just to dash everyone’s hopes right from the start–I’m not hanging ANYTHING from the ceiling anymore…), I felt the need to re-write my artist’s statement.  I did this for two reasons.  Initially, I wrote it as a proposal just to get into the show, not thinking it would be shared beyond that context (on the form, there was no space for a “proposal” so the only place I could enter it was under “artists statement”).  Apparently some sort of book will be published including all the pieces in the show (hopefully sans photography because the photo I submitted is terrible and not descriptive of the piece itself at all) plus basic information about each artist.  I guess this includes the artist statement we each submitted and seeing as my piece has changed pretty drastically from my original vision (and it was not written as an “artists statement” to begin with), it just doesn’t fit anymore.  Not to mention the fact that I really don’t need my BS proposal writing published for all to see…  So I re-wrote it!  In a brief and even more BS-ish format.  At the recommendation of my favorite contemporary poet, I tried out the renga form, which is an ancient Japanese cooperative form, the first stanza of which eventually became the much shorter haiku.  I liked this idea for a couple of reasons: first, I felt like it allowed me to remain sufficiently vague and abstract, the complete opposite of writing the proposal, second, I liked the concept of it being cooperative.  While I didn’t write it with another person as the form requires, I did steal words and phrases out of my conversation with Dan, so in some ways it was a cooperative poem written with him, he just doesn’t know it yet.  And whether he (or I) likes it, he has had a pretty huge influence on how the piece will show so it seems appropriate.  Other than that, the form is utterly unrelated to the piece itself.  Let’s be honest, it saved me a lot of time…

Also a bit about the title;  Post-Processualism.  Actually, I don’t really feel like explaining it–google or wiki it if you want to know more!  It is an archaeological theory related to post-modernism.  Look it up on your own to find out why it is (or isn’t) appropriate in this context.

Test Pieces

December 18, 2008

So we’ve got the general manufacture of tiles down, the storage and transportation issues…  I would do an entry on firing, except I keep forgetting to take photos anytime I run a kiln so we’ll skip that until I can remember to bust out the camera before turning the kiln on…  The next step is sanding, which has been happening at home recently since the studio was closed for a while.  And after that, photocopy transfer!  I think I’ll use this entry just to show a bunch of test pieces–we’ll get into details of the finishing process later when I have some better photos to share.

My workspace at home

My workspace at home

Some tiles on my table at home, ready for sanding

Some tiles, ready for sanding

Sanding the tiles helps generate a more perfect surface for the image transfer

Sanding the tiles helps generate a more perfect surface for the image transfer

A cover page test-printed on an unfired tile

A cover page test-printed on an unfired tile

I loved this disclaimer page--especially in the context of the additional loss of information when I re-print it again

I loved this disclaimer page--especially in the context of the additional loss of information when I re-print it again

A test print of a map indicating Watertown's location--unfired broken tile

A test print of a map indicating Watertown's location

These tests were applied to very rough tiles when they were still bone dry.  They are far too fragile to handle the pressure required for printing at this stage so later versions are printed after the firing.  There is lots of texture from the slab roller canvas (this was before the silk) and they hadn’t been sanded at all.  This meant the transfer ended up being of very low quality–the dark areas are smoother surfaces, the lighter areas that didn’t print very well are rough areas.  Thus the reason for spending so much time finishing and sanding each individual piece.  I later fired the cover page, which turns the transfer to a rust red color as all the black in the toner burns out and only iron is left behind.  I’ll dig up a photo of this (if I have one!) and post it later on…

Storage

December 13, 2008

Okidokie.  So, things have been quite insane this week.  The installation has gone though some serious changes–long story short, I’m not hanging anything from the ceiling anymore.  At first I was really upset by this idea, but after a lot of re-evaluating and debating, I’m happy with the new solution.  In a lot of ways, the piece will be conceptually stronger, but it is a huge change from what I was originally envisioning so it may take a while for me to wrap my head around it.  Work ground to a halt this week while I waited to see what the final conclusion would be and now I need to switch gears and write myself a new action plan to figure out how to get it all done in time.  I’m not going to give away the changes yet, but I’m sure over the next couple weeks, bits and pieces will emerge.  Thankfully all the work I’ve done up till now is still appropriate so I don’t have to start over or throw out the last three weeks of labor.  On that note, I’ll pick up where I left off earlier this week.  Storage…
My only personal storage space in studio

My only personal storage space in studio--I'm the top shelf...

Because I’m a huge dork, this was probably one of the most thrilling discoveries I’ve encountered so far.  Storage and transportation was/is a huge issue–these tiles are sooooo fragile–if I pick them up wrong, they break, if I store them wrong, they break, if I fire them wrong, they break, etc. etc.  The most stable way to store them is flat, but since that takes up way more space than the studio or my apartment has, I had to find an alternative.  So I spent my first weekend thinking about it and… Drum roll please…

Storage and transportation all in one!

Storage and transportation all in one!

Boxes in studio full of greenware tiles waiting to be fired...

Boxes in studio full of greenware tiles waiting to be fired...

Hanging File Boxes!  Woohoo!  Genius, I know.  Being the dork that I am, I was like, ‘yeah!  I’ll store them in these boxes, since they’re made for paper, and they’ll have these documents on them, and I can organize them with tabs and stuff like real files, it’ll be awesome!’  Coming from the girl who has had dreams about filing… sad, but true.  You have to admit though, it’s perfect.  So now when I fill up all the shelves in studio, I can let them sit for 12-24 hours until they’re bone dry, then file them away until firing time!  After they’ve been fired, they go straight back into the boxes to be transported home where the transferring of the text/image takes place.  It’s a little too good to be true.  Of course, a full box weighs a ton, but it’s just too easy to deny.  It’ll be great when installation day rolls around and I can just show up with a ton of these boxes and start pulling “files” out left and right.  Love it.

Printed in reverse, waiting to be transferred

Documents printed in reverse, waiting to be transferred

Disaster Averted

December 10, 2008

Wow.  Today has been crraaazzyyy.  At all… 4 of my jobs…  An unpleasant day in the office playing clean-up after others, paired with the fear of losing this installation (or giving up important parts of it) and a great lunch date with a friend I haven’t seen in a while, followed by the opening of the Harvard Ceramics Show and Sale, which was shockingly lovely and required the bleeding of cash, followed by surprise dinner out, interrupted by FABULOUS conversation with Dan Borelli, who is in charge of designing the Arsenal show and ensuing excitement over new ideas, now to be followed by more office work since I wasn’t willing to stay late to finish my renderings, to be followed by some window work (assuming I’m still alive by then). 

Longest day ever.

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