Ceramic Design Group on sun 10 apr 05
I would like to suggest that perhaps we remove the "vs" (versus) in
this thread as it really is not a confrontation, nor is it a battle or
taking sides. There is really no need for this on the list as it
creates a more negative vibe then anything to do with helping people.
However, that being said, I do have some observations.
After my initial post, I received many responses and some had links to
their particular sites showing examples of their work. I am amazed at
the variety of work being produced at a such a variety of temperatures.
Many posts also asserted that lots of time and energy had been spent in
pursuit of a particular look, a finish, etc.
There are so many ways of working that they defy any categorization. We
all choose to work in certain ways because they appeal to us and have
value in taking our artistic vision where it needs to go. Perhaps my
assertion of " wasting precious time and energy" might have been a bit
pre-mature or smug, and if I have indeed offended anyone, it certainly
was not meant in that way. As artists, our most precious commodity is
our time. Notkin emphsized this last fall in our "SlipCast Object"
workshop here in Steamboat Springs. He had designed a specific exercise
with 1 square inch of clay and one hour to make work with it. The end
result was that not one of the 12 or so workshop participants had
enough time to finish the work in one hour!
So the point being, that it doesn't matter what you choose to make and
how you choose to make it. If a particular path appeals to you and you
can follow it, go for it and learn everything about it to make it work
for you. The idea of ceramics being about "loss" is a concept that I
have trouble with because it borders on a nihilisim. If so, then we
would not bother at all making stuff because "why bother any way."
However, nihilism not being the case, if we make work that we know and
have some knowledge about the learning curve and the frustrations of
the myriad of technical faults that can occur yet our artistic vision
remains uncompromised, it is precisely this reason alone why we make
work. We may need to learn, relearn, or change how we make our work,
but we still make it nonetheless.
Remember the huge square top loading kilns of yesteryear? Every
manufacturer made them. Some still do. These behemoths were over
insulated and had big gauge elements. I have seen some old Paragons of
this vintage still looking like a box but firing perfectly after all
these years. I think American Art Clay still makes some of these as
does Alpine. I know that if my production choice was high fire electric
for my uncompromised vision (see above) I would certainly think very
seriously about purchasing a kiln specific to that choice. I think that
what the point was of my original posting about electric kilns. The
multi-sided top loaders that are available from any number of
manufacturers are perfect for up to cone 6 work. I had the pleasure of
visiting Steve Lewicki and touring the L and L facility prior to my
article on electric kilns for Pottery Making Illustrated. The level of
detail, commitment, and seriousness of manufacturing that they employ
in making their kilns is tremendous. I would also posit that this same
ethic extends to other kiln companies (well, I certainly won't badmouth
any who in my opinion don't step up to that challenge on the list...we
do know there are some)). But the point is that being price
constrained, so to speak, there is a really a solid amount of kiln R
and D and good design built into these types of kilns despite the need
to keep them affordable. And I think that is precisely where the
arguments, if any at all should be directed. There are few on this list
who could afford a properly designed, constructed, and instrumented
industrial electric kiln for daily firing to cone 10 let alone have the
prerequisite electric service to handle it. And yes, I am sure that
there are many on the list that work with top loaders as we know them
to these elevated temperatures and make them work in what ever ways are
necessary. That's the conundrum. We want, or demand, our equipment to
be inexpensive, work perfectly, and do all the things we subject them
to. And be cheap and affordable. Kiln manufacturers finally moved
away from those cheap n' cheasy P and B relays into mercury switches or
solid state contactors. Why? Some of us bitched and moaned that we were
tired of replacing these under-spec'd relays. I think Paragon was the
first to use mercury relays (and at my suggestion and insistence, if I
can be so bold to say) and others are following suit. Perhaps there
will soon be a concerted effort to make better quality and better
designed elements to take the challenge of long lasting cone 10 and
higher heat work in "hobby kilns." Perhaps there will be a concerted
effort to better insulate the chambers and make them conform to
existing shelf sizes and get through doorways. Perhaps someday these
top loaders will rival some of the industrial front loaders. Take a
look at Nabertherm for example. Stepping right up to the challenge. You
will pay more, but there might then be fewer posts on this list about
elements not working to specification or kilns being under insulated.
So it seems that we make do with what we have as best we can, given the
limitations of the equipment we use. Or we find ways to make them
better on the secondary or after market. Two colleagues of mine have
collaborated on a production line of crystalline glazed ware at is out
there in the marketplace.(Flambeau Pottery) The work is fired in a
heavy production situation using L and L elevator kilns to cone 10.
Consistently. The results are very impressive indeed.
So as we enjoy the fruits of our labor on a beautiful Sunday morning,
coffee in hand or what ever beverage of choice, remember that our
choices are our own and we deal with their results or consequences as
best we can. No right, no wrong, just ways of working and thats all.
Ceramic Design Group
PO Box 775112
Steamboat Springs CO 80477
Plant location for commercial deliveries excluding USPS
1280 13th Street Suite K
Steamboat Springs CO 80487
Arnold Howard on mon 11 apr 05
----- Original Message -----
From: "Ceramic Design Group"
Kiln manufacturers finally moved
> away from those cheap n' cheasy P and B relays into mercury switches or
> solid state contactors. Why? Some of us bitched and moaned that we were
> tired of replacing these under-spec'd relays. I think Paragon was the
> first to use mercury relays (and at my suggestion and insistence, if I
> can be so bold to say) and others are following suit.
About five years ago Jonathan Kaplan posted to Clayart a long list of
complaints about electric kilns. I circulated his complaint list at Paragon,
because it made so much sense to me. Thanks, Jonathan, for your excellent
We still use the P & B relays in the digital kilns. The mercury relays are
optional, and I believe well worth the extra expense.
Paragon Industries, L.P., Mesquite, Texas USA
email@example.com / www.paragonweb.com