Probably when most people think of potters at work they think of a person hunched over a spinning wheel with hands full of clay; but to get to that favorite mug you’re probably holding right now sipping green, peppermint infused tea, is a little more involved.
I was thinking about that today as a thunderstorm rolled up out of the west as I was firing the kiln. Actually two other things came to mind first: 1) whether a kiln full of mineral coated pots under a tin roof makes for a good lightning rod and b) if the electricity should go out, how sad I would be to be a mere 100° from clay maturity and have to shut the kiln down because the electric blowers help mix the air/gas combination going into the kiln. One without the other does not work for my kiln. But, back to your mug…
Regardless if a potter digs his own clay. mixes it, or buys it moist, hauling 50 lbs. of it around is pretty standard. Then there’s the wedging; making sure the clay is nice and homogenized which makes for more efficient throwing. Oh yeah, here’s the image in your mind of the potter at the wheel throwing, but wait, do you also imagine him pulling the handle, yes the one you’re now holding, and attaching it to the cup? OK, then there’s the trimming, usually done before the handle goes on; that’s what makes for a nice bottom. Then we wait, wait, wait, for it to dry so we can put it in a kiln and do a bisque fire. Are we there yet? NO! The bottom is waxed to resist the glaze so you do not have to hold a kiln shelf attached to the bottom of your mug to drink your green peppermint infused tea. Now we come to Game Day! The kiln is loaded and fired. Getting ready for this for a studio potter is like preparing for a sporting match. Once the match begins, fine tuning of the kiln is a must. Atmosphere, temperature and timing are all in play and the potter now becomes clay tactician. This is really what I was thinking about before the storm rolled in. I was in my final reduction phase, (see the gases coming out of the flue at 2298° in the image), when thunder captured my attention.
The kiln reached maturity temperature just as the storm let up and moved past the woods to the east. Game day was over and now anticipation for the opening begins. I will post results in a few days because I have to wait, wait, wait for it to cool.
So, you can just relax, take another sip of your green, peppermint infused tea and imagine all of the good energy that made this moment possible. Amen.