Monday, May 24, 2010

An Introduction to our Kiln and Firing Process

The kiln is a large appliance that lives on my back patio. Here it is with the top closed the way it looks when it is firing. The box on the outside houses the computer that controls the temperature. The clay and glaze we use are "low-fire" meaning they fire to about 1900 degrees Fahrenheit.

The kiln opens from the top.

Sculptures and pots are stacked on vertical shelves supported by columns. Below, you can look down intot he kiln to see the first shelf. Columns will be added next and another shelf stacked on top.

The picture above shows clay that has dried and is ready for a first firing. When it goes into the kiln it is called "greenware." When it comes out, it has been transformed to ceramic and is called "bisque." This firing takes about 15 hours and then another 8 to 12 hours to cool.

The clay in this picture is ready for a glaze firing. The blue pieces are all painted with clear glaze. This can be a bit confusing because it doesn't look very shiny. The glaze gets its color and sheen from the firing process. There is silica in the glaze that melts to form a thin coat of glass covering the clay. This firing only takes about 7 hours but takes 8 to 12 hours to cool.

Below are the same pieces after firing. Notice their sheen and color.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Art of Happiness

A big thank you to our presenters, Gioia and Rebecca and all who attended The Art of Happiness lecture May 4th at Art at the Center. Gioia Chilton and Rebecca Wilkinson brought to life the energizing field of positive psychology and ideas around defining mental health based on strengths rather than on pathology. Their experiential activities got us up and moving around to discuss adn explore how these ideas relate to our own lives, strengths and preferences. Art activities helped to create a bridge to the connections with art therapy and how achievement of mastery and flow experiences contribute to feelings of happiness.
One important point they made was that achieving happiness does not mean an absense of any negative emotions. It means building resilience, a focus on the positive and the ability to bounce back after setbacks.
This reminds me of the Studio Thinking Habits of Mind we work to build in the studio. When we "engage and persist" we work through frustration, having faith in the creative process. When we "develop craft" we attend to specific skills and the care and use of our tools. This leads to feelings of accomplishment, mastery and ownership of the studio space and the work that is made. We "stretch and explore" when we experiment with a new art media or subject matter, something outside our usual comfort zone. This is where a community of artists is so important in the studio. Peers provide support and resources to support creative risk taking. When we "reflect" or "envision," we look at what is going well, what works in a piece of art and how that might lead us to logical next steps. We imagine new possibilities and look for ways to build on interests and strengths of individual artists.
The Studio Thinking Habits of Mind were developed as a way to highlight learning in studio settings. You can read more about them here,
Studio Thinking for Young Minds