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electric kiln firing: 'faux' it or not?

updated mon 8 sep 03


Stephani Stephenson on sat 6 sep 03

Many will use electric kilns because you can use them in places where
you cannot use a gas kiln. They are the long time friends of the urban
potter , the residential neighborhood potter, the potter works where a
gas or wood kiln would not be accepted or advised.
Currently, I have access to both gas and electric and I still do a good
portion of my work in the electric kiln.
With the exception of some majolica glaze I recently used, I have never
been satisfied with commercial low-midfire glazes and rarely satisfied
with recipes found in books. The tilemaker I work with, Laird Plumleigh,
makes glazes which are often mistaken for higher fired glazes, even
though they are fired to cone 03 and 04. They are breaking glazes and
the red clay burns through and interacts with the glaze in a lovely way
which says 'fire was here and left it's mark'! The gas kiln is fired
in oxidation, though there are local areas of reduction in the kiln

I have been developing some electric kiln glazes which are not the
same, but which give me a more of an organic , sumptuous quality....
I would not say I am trying to 'make them look like reduction glazes',
but I am trying to expand the possibilities and develope a palette to
my liking . An electric kiln glaze need not be a simple glossy or pasty
bland monochromatic glaze, but as Ababbi says, you do need to do the
work ahead of time with your glazes AND with your claybody.
(I am working at cone 04 and 03 and am using tan and red clay bodies.)

One of the most important considerations in making your glazes come
alive in the electric kiln firing is the clay you use.
clay color will be affected, and materials such as iron will not flux
in oxidation as they do in reduction. The interaction between the clay
and the glaze is of the greatest importance. In my case, iron and body
flux from the claybody are essential in developing the look of the
glaze during the firing. Some white clays will barely interact with a
certain glaze while others will race with it.
So try some different clays and clay additives as well as glazes.

The other most -wonderful thing I have discovered in recent years is the
beauty of a big old thick- walled , well insulated electric kiln., it
will stay warm for a week after firing if not opened
...those of you who can ramp down with a computer controller also have
this advantage, but my old Cress showed me that a slow cooldown for
electric firing opens up a whole new world of possibilities with glazes.
You find you have mattes, you have crystals, you have mottling and
variegation...... and you will still have the consistency and ease of
the electric.
if you really want to use both, check the archives for mel's
instructions on the gas/electric... he had posted them a few times.

Also I must say again I love the gas and other fuel burning kilns too. I
love different temperatures. I love them all for different reasons.
Stephani Stephenson