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RE: ArtsEdNet - burnishing ceramics

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From: King, Jean (JKING5_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Nov 17 2004 - 12:53:09 PST


Sounds to me like you are trying to describe reduction firing in an electric kiln. This would be the proper term for it. Best done in a saggar. Should be able to google it.

Firing materials that burn out in a kiln can seriously shorten the life of your elements. The other thing is that the fumes don't all go out through the vent-a-hood. You can end up with all the teachers in your area running out to look for the fire. Embarrassing, believe me, I've done it.

I have always burnished my pots when they were leather hard (still cold). I prefer a stone to a spoon for burnishing, mainly because I can get into tighter spaces with a stone.

As far as firing burnished pots: I have always pit fired them. It's the best bet. If I can locate it, I know I have an article somewhere about using a barbecue pit to fire in. It was by a school teacher. Maybe in an old School Arts? or Ceramics Monthly?

There is lots of information available out there. If nothing else, if you have a local ceramic store talk to them. Might also seek out a ceramics professor.

Good luck,
Jean King

-----Original Message-----
From: Sidnie Miller [mailto:smiller@elko.k12.nv.us]
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2004 2:27 PM
To: ArtsEdNet Talk
Subject: Re: ArtsEdNet - burnishing ceramics

I don't believe that you can raku in an electric kiln--I expect that
even at a low temp. the newspaper is going to burn away and the pots
will fire white (or whatever color the clay is). For raku you need to
fire to orange hot and then put in a small area (under a bucket) with a
combustible material so you deprive the pot of oxygen. When you burnish
a greenware pot and pit fire ( fire to a lower temp) you get great
shinyness. When you fire to temp in an electric kiln it's still a
smooth pot, but it fluffs up a bit in firing and you lose the perfect
shine. If you burnish a pot for an electric kiln you should be
concentrating on textures--perhaps have smooth beside some carved rough
areas. I've found that when you try to glaze over a burnished pot, the
glaze doesn't want to stick. You could rough it up with sandpaper first
to give it some tooth, but then what is the point of the burnishing.
Walmart has some great polished river stones for cheap that work well to
burnish. We did a San Ildefonso pit firing and our pots didn't get
great blacks, but they're sort of cool with brownish and terracottaish
spots. Anyway, we waxed with minwax for dark wood surfaces and they
look great.

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