Wednesday, June 27, 2007

the Chicken or the Egg?

This post is a long one because I have three confessions to make.

First on the list, I don't have a kiln. There, it is out (*sigh*). I'm embarassed to admit this. Yes, yes, I know what you are thinking. "How can you be serious about ceramics and not own a kiln?" I have a personal rule and that is, I have to "earn" my kiln. Until I truly and honestly believe in my work, I will not pony up the bucks to buy one, period. The fact that I don't have a kiln speaks volume about how I feel about my own work so far (thus, my second confession). This has been my thought pattern for quite a while now. Does an artist ever get to a point when he feels confident in his art? He must, right? He has to believe in his work before he can even fathom that others will too.

Now onto my third confession, I have been having endless problems with glazes for years. Because of my "kiln situation", I fire my pieces at two local pottery facilities . Each facility is impressive in its own right. You can see photos of one here. We're talking about a combine inventory of 4 gas and at least 8 to 10 electric kilns (I have lost count). There is ample room to dry, glaze, throw, carve, etch, and do whatever else you can imagine to your clay. I am very lucky to have such resources where I live. All of this goodness, comes with one catch, both facilities fire in cone 10 (reduction) or cone 06 (oxidation) ONLY, and nothing in between. This fact presents a big problem in my process. I happen to love working with porcelain and I prefer to paint designs using bright colorful glazes (no dipping). That type of glaze don't exist in cone 10, at least in my experience with commercial ones. They do come in cone 06, but they consistently craze (crack) on porcelain (i.e. not food safe). I've tried all sorts of work arounds but to date, I am still nowhere closer to where I want to be. If only I can fire at whatever range of temperature I need, all my glaze troubles would be solved.

I guess you're seeing my dilemma now, right? It's the age-old question. What comes first? the chicken or the egg? Or in my case, the kiln or my art? I need a show of hands please. Which way should I sway?

The picture above is that of a raku kiln taken by my friend, Natalie, earlier this week at our pottery facility.


h2okatcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sarah said...

Chi, I surely know how you feel because I have and still am going through "the chicken or the egg" dilemma all the time. There's always something I want to have thinking that having "it" will help me do what I love to do perhaps ... better. Albeit, there are plenty of things I've acquired over the years which somehow I ended up not using much, but then there are those few things I bought that have given me so much joy when I use them. If the thought of having your own kiln fills you with JOY ... then you should definitely get it! If you worry that some day you may somehow lose interest in your art, and move on to something else ... then so be it. You can always sell your kiln to another artist who has a need for it. Life is constantly evolving and is also quite ephemeral so I'd say ... do that which brings us the most JOY! If having your own personal kiln brings you joy, then there lies the answer! Who knows? Having your own kiln may spark your creativity even more. I'm not a ceramic artist and so I'm not sure how big a role having a kiln would play in the art of making ceramics, but if it's anything like having that perfect computer that enables me to process digital images at home rather than having to go to a school lab to do so, then I surely can understand! Sorry for the long-winded "vote" ... but this is a "dilemma" that's close to my heart too! Now thanks to your blog today ... I'm definitely going to get my iMac! Just a matter of ... time. :) Btw, Chi ... I absolutely adore your artworks! They make me happy just looking at them! Imagine how better it is that I get to use them too! :)

eva said...

I`m not in pottery, so I can`t answer specific questions. But general.
I think, what makes you an artist is, that You simply can`t be something else, you can`t live without creating, making things or thinking about it.
Now, about "earning" things.
I think, this is so widely overrated. you don`t have to earn anything! Do you have to earn love? trust? respect? My answer is no. Either you have these things or you don`t. So I suggest you think about this whole earning-thing and go and buy yourself a kiln. I think you deserve to have it just by being born as an artist.
PS I have an article somewhere, which I recommend to read. To everyone actually. Here

Linda said...

I would vote for having your own kiln.
You'll have more control over maintaining it (kiln "housekeeping" is really important) and only your pieces will be fired in it. I have a Skutt kiln with the EnvironVent. I'll be happy to give you details if you'd like!

Denise said...

Hi Chi,

I think it comes down to practicality. It would be like me using an outside studio, twice a week, to record my songs. You're doing so much work, you should have your own kiln. Not only that, but the convenience of having your own kiln will change the way you work. You won't have to plan what gets fired and what doesn't. Having everything at your disposal frees up the creative process.

The fact that you are thinking about it, and discussing it, means you're ready. You just need to go for it! Seriously, you'll be glad you took the plunge, and I believe it will take your work to the next level. .. and besides, you deserve it. :0)

Chi Le (aka Peppa) said...

Thanks for your advise everyone! It looks like a unanimous vote for the kiln. I will take you up on your suggestions and shop for one. I'll start with the Skutt (thanks Linda). I'll keep you all posted.

Cynthia said...

Peppa, I totally understand your rationale, but I also vote with buying your own kiln. For the past several years, I have fired at the Art Student's League of Denver and before that at the University of Southern Maine where I was a student. I had come to rely on the studio assistant to fire my work and felt very removed from the process. 2 years ago, after a few failed firings at the league, I decided to buy a used kiln until I could afford the kiln of my dreams. (Only a potter would dream about a kiln right?) I checked Craigslist, and posted several wanted ads on and within a couple of weeks, I had a woman contact me with a vintage used Paragon - not terribly big - 3 cubic feet and manual with kiln sitter for 100$. She threw in the kiln furniture, pyrometer, stilts, cones and various sundries.

It sat unused - though I did have my garage wired for it- for 1 year. Knowing that I would be moving into my own studio forced me to learn how to use it. I was intimidated - but did it and let me tell you, I'm so happy I did. With the help of my mentor, I'm learning a lot about firing schedules, soaking etc. Best of all, I don't have to lug my pots to the league anymore. I have control over the process.

I am saving for a skutt 1027 with digital controls and envirovent, but in the meantime, I feel pretty good. I did go out an purchase an Aim test kiln which I love for glaze testing and jewelry making.

mieke van sambeeck said...

In the long run it wil work out better for you to have your own kiln, no losses because of to high firings, cheaper to i'm sure.I work with porcelain wich fires to cone 6 and looks beautifull and thin,it is so much joy to open your kiln and see your work finished and indeed no carting around of delicate pots. Good luck.