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Test fire your colored clay in a Microwave Kiln!

As any colored clay artist will tell you, building complex Nerikomi canes is a meticulous process! Using a microwave kiln for test firing as you complete this process can be a huge time (and energy) saver!


Each colored porcelain cane starts by mixing ceramic stains (colorants) into plain white porcelain (or clay). Gradient blends are created from these colors to form the basis for most of my canes, because my work is inspired by nature and nothing in nature is a single, solid color. The cane building process often involves creating the smallest component of a design before putting all of the design components together.


In my studio practice, I test fire pieces at each step along this journey, starting with the colors themselves. It’s a lot of work to design and build a cane, and this meticulous testing (and documenting) process helps me to be sure that the finished product matches my vision.


But what’s a potter to do if they don’t have a full kiln load to fire or a small test kiln to use for all of these in-between firings? The answer is pretty simple, and relatively inexpensive! I use a tiny kiln designed for glass fusing that fires my tests in an old microwave in about seven minutes. This kiln is also really helpful to me when we’re on extended RV trips, because I have inspiration everywhere I look but zero access to a traditional kiln for test firing.


After each testing process, I dip each of the bisque fired pieces into water, which provides a fair representation of how it will look when glazed and glaze fired. If things work out, I can move forward in the cane design and building process with confidence; if things didn’t turn out like I hoped, I won’t waste countless hours of my time working with colors or blends that won’t give me the results I’m looking for.


This video explains the process in detail, and I hope it’s helpful for you. If so, please share it! Feel free to post questions in the comments section below, and I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can.




Happy potting, and have fun!

Susan

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