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Lessons learned


Anyone reading some of the previous posts (all two of you) will know we have been having some trouble with the pit firing. The problem is that I am getting colour washes but very little defined markings. This differs from previous pots which are very defined and I wanted to be able to repeat that. But nothing I did would bring those strange shadows back. Panic! I thought it might be the fire, so I changed the sawdust. It wasn't that. Then I thought it might be the pit, so I changed the firing method. It wasn't that either. In the meantime, I was getting disconsolate - even while reciting the mantra about failure being a good thing. This weekend, after some more experiments, I concluded it had to be down to the surface of the vessels themselves. There is nothing else it can be. The burnishing is better these days so maybe the markings are being stopped by that? Last night I was wondering if I should fire the bisqued vessels higher to "undo" some of the burnished finish. Then I remembered that a few weeks back my tutor had suggested I raise the firing temperature of the pots (to make them less fragile). The difference is only about 20 degrees C so it never occurred to me it could make such a difference. But I am fairly sure I have found the cause. Obviously I need to test the assumption by making some new pots and firing them to the old temperature, and then pit firing them. I should probably make some with different "levels" of burnishing or terra sigillatta just to check whether this makes a difference too. Even though the theory is still not tested, I feel like the dam of frustration has burst already! I am on the right path again. I am sure of it. I had a little debrief with myself earlier and decided that had I taken proper notes of what I was doing - like a diary of each day's work, I might have made the connection earlier. I could have looked back and seen when the temperature changed and which batch was affected. My bad. Tomorrow I am going out to get a desk diary for the shed. Henceforth, this ceramic artist is going to be more organised and less seat of the pants!


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