a successful first bisque

I wrote this post just over a month ago, but for some reason, I never posted it. So here it goes (and there is more to follow).
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I’m declaring my first bisque firing a success.

I have never been so excited to fire a bisque before. But after more than a year of producing nothing but green-ware, it’s a big milestone to fire this bisque.

The process of getting to this point has been long. The house renovations, the studio building, etc… all took a long time. But it was the end part- of getting all the electric service upgraded and everything hooked up and running really seemed to take forever! It really did take a long time, but I do know that my anxiousness about it made it feel like it dragged out even longer.

After many phone calls to the electric company to finish the hook-up of the upgraded service, it took the crew 3 tries to get the work done. First time they got to our house, rang our bell and said “we can’t stay, we have another appointment.” Next day: “We only have one tall ladder and we don’t have it with us today.” Then a few days later, they finally came with all the right equipment.


View from our 2nd floor balcony.

A huge thanks to Paul Randall from The Pottery @ Raccoon Highway.  He did a lot of things to help get me to the point of firing including chiseling a hole through our foundation to install the kiln vent. That was not an easy thing to do! Thank you Paul!

I took my time loading the kiln. For the past 10 years, when firing at Lillstreet, I had to sign up for a time to load the kiln whether it was electric, soda or straight reduction. More often than not, you’d be loading a warm kiln that had just been unloaded by a class or another studio member. And then there was usually a time deadline that the kiln had to be unloaded so the next person renting the kiln could load and start up their firing. So I decided to luxuriously load my kiln. (yes, that’s what I consider a luxury!). So when I knew the first firing was in sight, I started loading her up. I ended up making more pieces to ensure a nicely loaded kiln. I hate wasting space!

After all the electric was done, and the venting was hooked up, I wanted to do a few things to ensure that the ceiling and kiln room didn’t get too hot.

While we were building out the space, we did put up cement board on the walls near the kiln. It is spaced off the wall so there is both a heat resistant barrier, and also the air space helps with insulation. Luckily there are 4 windows in the room, so I wasn’t worried about air intake and exhaust. And of course there is the Envirovent exhaust fan that is installed on my kiln.

Two things that I did need to figure out- A heat deflector and a fan that could keep the air moving in the room.

I knew from previous experience how important a heat deflector above a kiln is. It’s summer, and the room above the kiln room is my sister’s dining room. The floor above is wood (obvious concerns) and I also didn’t want to make their living space too uncomfortable to be in. So I took a piece of thick pink foam insulation, high heat spray adhesive and some wide aluminum foil and attached the foil to one side of the foam (side facing the kiln). The foam and the adhesive were left over from our previous construction and the foil was leftover from Thanksgiving. There are radiator pipes above the kiln (a bonus is that they don’t mind getting hot!). I used the pipes to suspend the foam over the kiln and have a nice air space between the foam/deflector and the ceiling/floor above.

I don’t know if you can tell, but the foam is a full 4′ x 8′ sheet. If you don’t happen to have a piece of pink foam insulation around, you can buy a sheet that has foil on 1 side. But since I already had some, I didn’t want to have to buy a new sheet.

The next thing was air movement. I wanted a really good fan that could keep air constantly flowing over the kiln (by the ceiling). I ended up getting a Vornado fan. I had it next to a similar size/design Honeywell fan and the difference was pretty shocking. The Vornado fan is many many many times stronger than the Honeywell (both were from Target).  So we aimed the fan from across the room, angled up at the ceiling, and towards the windows. Sure enough, at the height of the firing, the air space above the heat deflector was *cool.* It was actually the coolest spot in the room. And I kept checking in the dining room by walking on the floor with my bare feet and I didn’t feel like it was a single degree warmer than anywhere else. Amazing! Of course this is just a bisque. The c.10 firing is next. But I feel like this was a really successful test run. (spoiler alert: I’ve since fired the kiln to c.5 and c.10 and both were successful, and the heat deflector/fan combo worked like a charm.)

This photo is a little funny, but it gives you an idea of the set up. The way the Vornado fans work is that there is a very directed column of air.  So by aiming it up at the ceiling, it gave a constant flow of air over the heat deflector for the whole firing. Super simple and low tech- but it worked.

Next step is mixing up some glazes, finishing building the spray booth and finally firing a glaze firing. Yay!

In non-clay news, I’ve been spending a lot of time gardening. At the beginning of the spring, we didn’t have a single plant growing in the yard, and no grass. It’s so satisfying to have a lush green space now. Last summer we were so deep into the construction, our yard was a total mess- nails, scraps of wood and broken glass was scattered about. We didn’t spend any more time in our yard than it took to walk from the driveway to the house.

I planted a vegetable garden in our front yard. I’ve always wanted to have a veggie garden in the front yard- frees up the back yard for play space and it’s a nice way to get to know the neighbors.  Plus, it’s quite sunny. I started off kind of small this year, but it’s been a great success, so I’m planning on expanding it quite a bit next summer.

16 thoughts on “a successful first bisque

  1. All your hard work has paid off, congrats on your first firing. I’m in the same situation as you, been remodeling and just fired my second load of bisque in my new kiln should be ready to unload tonight. Will fire a glaze load coming up next. I have three fans running in my garage to keep the air circulating and have a screen on the garage door and the back door open to get cross ventilation. Since it’s so hot here in Florida, I start firing at 5 pm and finish a 12 hour bisque at 5 am. I’ll see how long it takes the glaze load to cool down next. Can’t wait to see your results. thanks for the info on the heat deflector and the fans.

  2. Congratulations.
    I appreciate the details about the fans, I’ve recently built a studio with a kiln room and I have been considering fan options. I’ll try the Vornado fans.
    I wonder how the firings are going to help the radiator pipes in the winter.

  3. congrats on getting the whole system happening, i cant bare a half packed kiln either… and man those power guys came all the way to your house to tell you they couldn’t stay???? what the!!??

  4. Thanks for sharing! And congrats! When we were closing in a porch for my studio we ran into some of the same trouble and electrical cost. What a mess we had forever. I finanally gave up and moved into ( and out of my kitchen) an unfinished studio. That was five years ago. I am still unfinished today but happily throwning clay and firing just in an ugly studio.

  5. Your new kiln is looking great, sounds like a lot of hard work to get it up and running but I bet it feels good! I can’t believe it took the electricity guys three attempts to connect you up. Looking forward to seeing the new pieces : )

  6. Hi Emily,
    I am jealous! I drool over the L&Ls every time I go online. I am planning on getting a small “Liberty Bell” model soon (because it’s all I can afford), but will use it later as a test kiln, so it will still be used. Keep us informed as to how it fires! I would like to know.
    Happy Mudding!
    Robert

  7. Hi Emily,

    Congrats on your new kiln and the first bisque (and subsequent glaze firings)… She looks like a beauty. I wanted to drop by and say thanks for the recent shout-out. I’m glad I got a chance to contribute something to the ‘How to build your own studio’ conversation as the subject interests me so much and you’ve always shared such great ideas about your own experience.

    Cheers!

  8. I love your front garden. I went unconventional this year and made an edible garden on the side pf my home also. I think I will post some photos on my blog. Never considered doing that.

  9. Good luck and lots of enjoyment. This has given me some wonderful ideas for my sister to use ( she loves making pottery). I love looking at a good piece of work.

  10. Congratulations on your new kiln! I’m sitting here with shelves of greenware, contemplating a kiln. I’ve heard very good things about L&L kilns! As yet, I haven’t fired a thing as I don’t have a option to fire outside my studio, so it’s all going to be a big learning curve for me! Your kiln room looks beautiful! Much success to you!

  11. Was given your name by another potter and must say I love your work. Enjoyed reading all your blogs and hope all is going well. Very exciting seeing your kiln set up.
    Curious how your LL kiln is holding up. And how do you manage to load such a deep kiln? Looking at kilns myself.

    1. Hi Judy,

      I think you also emailed me, so I’ll just answer you here. It is a challenge to load such a deep kiln! Especially because I am only 5’2″. The only real issue is the bottom shelf. Usually my husband helps me load it. I usually load larger pieces on the bottom instead of a bunch of small ones. Like 4 large serving bowls plus some cups in between. I can usually do that myself by standing on a step stool. It was pretty much impossible when I was pregnant so I took off the top ring from my kiln. It’s still nice and big, but easier to load, and faster to fill the kiln now that my production pace is slower with a 1 yr old! But I have the option to add the top ring back on whenever I need it.

      And in terms of how the L&L kiln is holding up- it’s been great. No problem reaching c.10. It’s like new still. I absolutely love having a square kiln too.

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