“The Mother of All Explosions”

So let’s say you just arrived in the studio.  It’s early.  There are 30 minutes before your first appointment.  Excitedly you head to the kiln to unload everything you’ve cast in the last three weeks.  There you find this….

Yep, that’s right.  Even the kiln shelf split in half.

I compare mornings like this to being similar to Christmas if there was a 50% chance of finding all of your hard earned gifts had spontaneously imploded while you were sleeping.

What could I do?  I laughed to myself, closed the kiln and left the building.  “Well, I really don’t know what I’m doing anyway, ” I thought semi-gleefully walking across campus.  It was strange to not feel the grip of expectations or a loss of time investment.  For a moment I thanked the unpredictable gods of ceramics and thought of it as an intervention of genius.

Unfortunately Zen moments only last so long.

Maybe it was the comfort offered by my peers that first unsettled me.  Or perhaps it was the realization that my lack of experience with ceramics left me with no way to gauge the contributing variables in the disaster, making future loss more probable…  Either way, the experience affirmed the importance of making good molds so that there is less clean up in the drying stages and therefore less investment before firing.  I will definitely be firing the kiln slower next time, poking several more holes in the piece and rethinking the quantity of porcelain vs. other cast material objects within the final installation.  Whether it was a fluke or not, the focus has to be on making the firing stage more stable and the rest of the processes more efficient.

In an act of sheer defiance I cast the first mailbox that afternoon.

Draining slip from the mold.

This casting showed many things.  First, the mailbox needs an hour filled with slip to create a 5/16″ skin.  It then has to setup for 6 hours before removing the two ends and top of the mold.  The following morning the cast mailbox can be removed from the final two parts of the mold.

Here are some more images of the mailbox mold in process:

Preparing to make sprues in the last section of the mold.

 Mailbox mold revealed.


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