The Kiln is a Harsh Mistress

I got back from our simply wonderful vacation last week, needing to get up to speed on the glazing work I have taken on this spring.

I learned yet again, that the kiln does not suffer fools gladly at all.

I had my first-ever kiln accident on Thursday, with a china piece owned not by me but by a customer, unfortunately. It was the Tumlinson “Majestuoso” I mentioned in this blog post in March.

It was in the kiln for the first firing and I forgot to prop it up on stilts off the kiln floor. If you don’t do that with these pieces on big china bases, they are almost guaranteed to break a leg. Which is exactly what it did. The front down leg broke clean at the pastern. (The back leg is still attached to the base.) Apparently these bases cool down at a different rate than the thin legs, and if you don’t get air circulating under the base in the kiln the base expands or something and the leg breaks.

I did know about this base issue, and have glazed other pieces on bases with no problems. I simply forgot this time when I loaded him in the kiln. (Normally the non-base horses go right on the kiln floor with no props, and I was firing other pieces at the same time and forgot to stilt it).

Anyway, AAARGH! Fortunately and incredibly since this is a sold-out edition, I was able to find another Majestuoso in bisque, and will start again. I had put a lot of painting hours into it even though it was the first firing, since this is a really detailed color pattern, sigh. This was the first year I had relaxed a personal rule I had about not custom glazing any chinas for other people on a piece that was rare or not easily replaceable. Because of this very thing where a mistake was made or something went wrong in the kiln beyond my control. And the thing I feared has happened! I am very lucky even though I’m paying for the mistake with my wallet.

Interestingly, since the piece still had one leg attached, and it was a loss anyway, I tried a kiln-repair technique where you push clear gloss glaze into the break, and then paint more glaze all around it, and then re-fire it to the original gloss glaze temperature. And it seems to have worked. The glaze reflows all around the break and re-seals it. I’ve been handling it just as I would a non-broken piece and so far it hasn’t re-broken. It’ll never be as strong as the original, and I can never sell it as mint, but I think I will finish painting this one too and see if I can find a buyer.

Too bad, that when you do the re-glazing the colored glazes fire off all weirdly. He’s now sort of blue-grey instead of bay-black!
Here is how it looked after it broke and before I re-glaze fired it:
and here’s how it looks now! I think I can coax it into a blue/grey roan appaloosa…!


I also broke a tile this week due to my absent-minded stupidity. I think my head must still be somewhere in Italy. Probably in some dreamy little out of the way canal/street in Venice, ooooh aaaah what a wonderful place that was!