I’m taking a ceramics class through the junior college. We started by making pinch pots, then coil pots.  Next we moved on to making slab pottery.  Each student  made four little tapas plates to use to practice glazing.  We explored dipping, wax resist, scruffito, and painting glazes onto the plates.

Then we were to make a box, something with a lid. I really got into this.  While my classmates were making little trinket boxes, I made a large casserole.  First I had to get the shape of the thing.  My instructor advised against making an oval shape for my box because it would be difficult to get the shape duplicated on each end of the pot.  I solved this problem by cutting a paper form exactly the shape I wanted for the base. I took the instructor’s advice and over came the difficulty.

Next, the instructor advised against making a flat lid.  “The span the lid has to cover is so big, it is likely to cave or dip down toward the center of the pot,” in the firing.  I solved that problem by making the lid a dome shape using newspapers underneath it to make a dome shape.

I needed to devise a way to keep the lid on the pot, so it didn’t slip off and it needed a handle on the lid to remove the lid and and handles on the sides of the base to take the casserole from oven to table.  All of these difficulties I overcame.

It seemed every time I turned around, there was a new problem that needed to be solved. Each addition of a part, each joining of the clay, was a potential spot where the clay could blow up in firing. This happens when small pockets of air get trapped inside the clay and when the clay is bisque fired (the first firing before glazing,) the air expands and shatters or cracks the now dry clay.

By the time I was ready to bisque fire my casserole, I felt pretty certain is wasn’t going to make it through that first firing.  I know this is a defeatist attitude, but there were so many potential problems–so many places where there were clay joinings in which air could get trapped.  I kicked myself for doing such a big project.  Why didn’t I stick to the safe project of a little trinket box.  I counted the number of places where I had jointed the clay, my total was over 23.  So many places with the potential for failure.

I said prayers when I put my piece on the shelf with the other green ware ready for the bisque firing. I said prayers as I watched the instructor load the kiln for the firing.  I again said prayers as the lid of the kiln was raised after the firing.  Did my pot survive the heat?

I’m happy to share that I now have a bisque fired casserole. In the next few days, I will apply glaze to the lid and the base. Even in the glazing I will be trying something different.  I want to use real leaves from fern plants to make stamped patterns on the casserole.  And I need to learn all the potential hazards that can happen between the bisque firing and the glazing. My instructor has already shown me examples of boxes where the lid has been permanently closed in the glaze firing.  What good would a casserole be if I can’t get the lid off.  This has caused me to think carefully about the glazing of my pot.  I’m sure, knowing me there must be about 23 more and different things that can go wrong.

I’m going crazy thinking of all the potential hazards.  Keep your fingers crossed for me and my casserole. I view this pot as a metaphor for my life. I never want to follow. I like to think outside the box.  I want to do things in a bigger way.  I never hear NO. I put potential hazards into my life.  I take on challenges.  And it is all ready to blow up, at any moment I can be shattered.


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