Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Scared of glazing

This morning our neighborhood suddenly became a very popular place to park. Our street and all the surrounding streets and even the usually empty hospital parking lot are suddenly so full that I worried I wouldn't find a parking spot when I came home after taking my daughter to day care this morning. The school year has officially begun at the high school behind our house.

At this point in the summer, I am done creating new forms. I am mostly done underglazing or adding color the forms. My mission from now until my school year begins is to glaze and fire the work, finish it and take "slides" of what I have made this summer. I have been building work all summer long and I fire work regularly through the summer because fired work is less fragile. Once it is fired, I often start underglazing it right away. I find underglaze application to be almost as stimulating and interesting as making the work and it provides a break sometimes from wet work or while I wait for a piece to dry. Because I usually have at least two steps in the underglaze application with a second firing in between, I fire underglazed work throughout the summer as well.

underglazed work waiting to be finished

I don't usually glaze work during the summer; I leave it for these last weeks. For most of my work I add a light layer of gloss or matte glaze over the layered underglaze. I usually spray this onto the work, sometimes I brush or sponge it on. Today I realize that, in a way, leaving the glazing until the end is foolish. Now I am faced with a marathon glazing session lasting several days and quite a few firings. However, I don't find the glazing or firing steps of the process to be all that interesting or exciting. On the contrary, now that I've reached this final step, I can only ruin pieces that have survived this far.

Damage, breakage, cracks and poor decisions on form, surface or color can happen (and have) during the building, firing and underglazing stages of the summer. However, as soon as I add glaze and fire the work, fixing any of these faults suddenly becomes much more difficult. If I accidentally added only two layers of underglaze to a piece, the streaks and unevenness don't really show up until after the glaze has been added and the piece has been fired. At this point, it is very difficult to go back and fix the mistake. Up until the glaze is added, there is still hope that I can catch and fix my errors.

glazed work ready to be fired

The glaze firing is the last step for most of these pieces and because of how I have arranged my studio time, this week and next week I will suddenly finish most of my work from the last three months. This might be satisfying after the kiln is unloaded and I can look at all my completed work, but it is nerve-wracking while I load the kiln. I worry during the day as I fire the kiln and I am scared to open and unload the fired kiln lest I discover mistakes or damage.

Today is the first glaze firing of the summer. Early tomorrow morning I will unload and see my first finished work of 2011. In fact, I believe some of the mugs in the kiln were first thrown in December 2010. I am nervously anticipating the results of two quasi-experiments in this firing. First, I tried some decoration with new underglaze pencils on the walls of a vase that cracked in the bisque firing. If this method works out, I might try it on a pair of sculptures. I also am experimenting with overglaze. I have never liked the gallon glaze that I bought last summer. It settles quickly and is hard to mix or keep suspended. I bought a pint of an overglaze I used to use in graduate school and I have loaded the kiln about half and half with work covered in the old and the new glaze.

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