During my student years and time spent in residencies, I have been able to make work in places with impressive facilities. At Ohio State University, there were several indoor kilns which allowed for very large work. I assembled a few of the most awkward pieces right inside the kiln, allowing them to dry safely without having to be moved. These were all gas kilns, and although I bow to the expert intuitive firing techniques of many other ceramic artists, I relied on a digital Fluke pyrometer to closely monitor the initial heating stages up to quartz. With my method of building, the drying and bisque firing conditions need to be tightly controlled. I have found that a slow drying period (1 to 2 weeks minimally) and a six day firing schedule accommodate this method of building with a minimum of complications.
Right now, in my studio, I have two electric kilns in which I fire all my work:
- Left: Skutt Oval Kiln: interior space 45″ length x 31″ width x 30″ depth
- Below: Olympic Oval Kiln: (not shown: 3 extra rings) interior space 41″ length, and 29″ width x 42″
The best feature of this type of kiln is the ability to remove all the rings, leaving just the floor of the kiln. Typically, I will load the large sections of the piece onto a shrink slab sitting on the kiln floor, then the rings are re-stacked, re-connected, the lid reattached.
The whole piece sits inside for a good week, making the moisture content in the work and the kiln atmosphere even. This time equalizing the moisture levels is a crucial step before the piece begins to be force dried (see Firing below). Being able to load and fire in sections allows me to create far more lightweight and complicated forms without worrying about breakage, and I am also able to make any necessary changes to the surface or supports while the clay is in a receptive state.