Thursday, March 3, 2011
I had a total Jake moment today, and most of yesterday, and a big part of Tuesday. I suppose it all started on Tuesday night. I went out to the kiln to turn it off after the firing had been going for 11 hours. I had just checked it 45 minutes before and cone 9 was falling nicely. (Potters use pyrometric cones to determine duration of temperature. The cones are made of the same ingredients as the glazes and therefore melt and bend over when the temperature has been reached. These are viewed through a small hole in the door called the Peep Hole. ) Anyway, I anticipated that cone 10 or 11 would be down, but as I checked the peep hole, I saw nothing but the back of the kiln. My heart sunk. This meant that something went terribly wrong because just 45 minutes earlier I could see the cones and a bunch of the pots through the same hole. This is the kind of thing that conjures up all the swear words I know and a few more that get made up out of desperation.
I went around to the back side of the kiln to where the burner ports are and looked into the kiln to see bricks, potshards and broken shelves everywhere. I turned off the kiln and walked away, so stunned I couldn't even cuss. My mind began to review everything that was in there--the hours--the pots--the waste. The worst thing was not knowing what, if anything, might make it through. Besides the pottery, there were also the shelves--every kiln shelf I owned was in that kiln because I had was firing a lot of tiles and tiles take up a lot of shelf space.
I had been working on tiles for my home remodel. I must have spent close to a hundred hours over the last two months working on those tiles. Over 100 6" tiles were my biggest concern. I had spent more than 20 hours glazing these and they were going to be amazing--lots of color, with glass, very cool. You can't open a hot kiln, so I had to wait and wait and wait for the kiln to cool down. I finally cracked it open last night before I headed to Scouts. The front row of shelves was leaning against the door and I had to place a barrel in front of the door to keep all the stuff from spilling out because it was still too hot for me to touch, even with leather gloves.
This morning, my mom came over to help me with the unload. It was devastating. All of the glass on the tiles ran terribly, sealing the tiles to the kiln shelves and pouring onto other pieces. I lost 50 bowls, many of which had been a special order that was supposed to ship out tomorrow. I lost thousands of dollars worth of tiles and every shelf was either destroyed or badly damaged. In all, I figure it was close to a $5ooo disaster. I spent the day grinding off the shelves I think I can salvage. The rest of it went to the dumpster.
So, here's the good news! I had two bowls survive and they were at the very bottom. Also, I have a lot of really beautiful shards, so if any of you are working on a mosaic project and would like some lovely shards, my garbage day isn't till Monday, so if you want them, come on over before then. I think I might take some and stick them in my rock tumbler to see what I can come up with. Maybe I can invent a new line of jewelry.
Why did this happen? I have no idea. It couldn't have happened at a worse possible time in the firing process. This has happened a couple of times before over the years, each of them nearly as devastating. I have made a smaller kiln which I hope to complete soon so if this happens again, I will only lose have as much stuff.
On days like this, I have to remember, it's only dirt. I still have my health and a beautiful family, and I have more clay. I feel awful about the waste, but it could have been worse--it could have torn the kiln apart. Tonight I feel like maybe the universe is trying to tell me that I need to be writing more. It's been tough lately. When I make pottery, I feel like I should be writing. When I write, I feel guilty that I am stepping into the dark again with a new story that may never work out. I feel like I should be making pottery--something that is safe and pays the bills and provides for my family. Man, I really need to find an agent. I feel like if I had an agent, it would give me something sure to hold onto--to somehow legitimize the time I spend writing--as if the 18,000+ books I've sold isn't enough. Faith is a difficult journey, isn't it? My fear of failure, the same fears I have faced since I was a boy, they tend to try to swallow me at times like this. I don't like that. I feel like I have enough ideas for books to keep me busy for the next five years, but I am insecure and weak and faithless. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is so terribly weak sometimes. I wish I had answers, but since I don't, I will carry on, one way or the other, anxious to grasp onto any and every sunbeam that breaks through the clouds of doubt.