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some questions for those of you who teach at unviersities

updated mon 23 apr 07


Deborah Thuman on sun 22 apr 07

For a number of reasons, buying a kiln is not a practical option for me
right now. Fortunately, my husband works at the local university and I
can take the clay classes without paying tuition. I don't pay to have
my work fired, and if I use the class glazes for ^10, I don't have to
pay for glazes. I could use the class clay, but I prefer to buy my own
commercial clays. The university has a number of electric kilns, some
very old gas kilns, and one very spiffy, computerized, state-of-the-art
gas kiln. In the spiffy gas kiln, when the reduction takes place can be

Right now, I'm working with ^04 and ^10. ^04 goes in the electric kilns
and ^10 goes in the spiffy gas kiln. Later this week, my sagger work
goes into one of the old gas kilns and I get to learn raku firing. I
suspect I'm going to learn more on that day than I've learned all

Next semester, I'll be working with the same clays as well as ^6. ^6
will be fired in the spiffy gas kiln. All of my clay bodies are white
because I like how the glazes look on white clay.

I've discovered the joy of baking with my very own hand made bread pan
and I will be making quite a few functional pieces from both ^10 and
^6. I want to be able to put these pieces in the oven, microwave and
dishwasher. I will learn to make a good, functional, nice-looking mug
if it kills me.

I've seen ^6 pieces with beautiful purple glazes and I'm convinced that
it's possible to get a gorgeous, glow-in-the-dark, fire engine RED
glaze for high fire. My teacher said that for the kind of red I want,
I'd have to do a lot of experimenting and also that I'd have to load
the kiln myself and put the red pieces in just the right spot.

Questions for those who teach at universities:
1. Are your students getting true red glazes? If so, how are they doing
2. What special things do I have to do with the kiln or with placement
of the red piece in the kiln (I may not always be the one who loads and
programs) to ensure the red stays red and doesn't turn that ugly dried
blood color?

Any and all advice is appreciated. Youse guys are incredible and I've
learned so much from all of youse. Besides, it's all your fault I'm
branching out to other forms and clays. Many thanks.


Valerie Kidrick-Rohret on sun 22 apr 07


A couple of questions, and a few (slightly) cautionary notes:

1) Does your faculty member/lab assistant have a limit on the number of
pieces a student can fire in a semester? We do at our school, and some faculty
members frown on strictly functional work (outside course requirements) being
fired excessively. Please don't take that as a slam against functional (my
husband is a studio potter), but with 20 students, all trying to get 15-25
pieces fired a semester, (then times that by 8 classes) it can be difficult to
get everything fired that's required, let alone "extra" work. It's sometimes
has seemed that our students are using the College studio as their own personal
studio. All I'd suggest is that you check with your instructor before you
fire 8 place settings

2) It may be the red you are seeking is ^10 copper red (we use Pinnell's
Red; thanks Pete)....a reduction glaze that requires a specific firing schedule.
(You probably know that already). However, you can't really fire part of a
kiln in reduction and the rest in oxidation. (Well, I apparently
can....dontcha just love those unreduced copper greens? ;>) In our home studio's gas
kiln, we know where to put things to get them into the underreduced zone, where
primary and secondary air make it difficult to get the reds, where the door
doesn't fit as tight as we'd wish it too, etc., and we load our kiln at home
accordingly. At the College lab, however, it's an entirely different
prospect. Sometimes our lab assistant loads, sometimes not. Sometimes Faculty
fires, sometimes not. Sometimes it's four faculty who fire. Sometimes they fire
without looking at the kiln log. Sometimes they forget to turn the kiln up...
(you get the picture.)

Your post has implied that the faculty member is going to allow you to both
1) experiment with glazes and 2) fire your own kilns. Hooray for you! That's
pretty much the only way to know how to fire any specific kiln.
Unfortunately (or maybe not) you will need to keep firing and firing, over and over,
until you get the feel for your particular spiffy gas kiln. Each one has it's
own personality, it's own history, and its own problems. Firing results can
also depend on all the other things any good firing depends on (speed of
firing, humdity, load, etc., etc., etc.) Don't be discouraged when you open the
door on a full load of beautiful ^10 Copper Red reduction glazes, and they've
all become beautiful ^10 Copper Green oxidation glazes. There's a reason
ancient Chinese potter's yearned for this's damn hard to get!

Good luck, and let us know how it turns out.

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