Electric kiln firing is one of the most common firing methods because electric pottery kilns are readily available and simple to install. But that doesn't mean that they yield common results. Electric pottery kilns can be incredible tools in the studio. The authors presented here are creative potters and ceramic artists using electric pottery kilns to create exquisite ceramic art.
Not only can electric kilns produce great results, but they also offer control and dependability. And electric kilns keep becoming more versatile, economical, and easy to use with advances in controllers, energy efficiency, materials, and safety. Improve your electric firing results and take advantage of the incredible potential offered by electric kiln firing.
Here is an excerpt from Techniques and Tips for Electric Kilns: Inspiration, Instructions and Glaze Recipes for Making Pottery in Electric Kilns:
Electric Kiln Firing Success
by Jonathan Kaplan
Color and texture in cone 6 glazes are the result of three variables: First, selecting proper glazes; second, learning how to layer and combine different glazes by pouring, dipping and spraying; and third, using a controlled cooling cycle to further enhance the color and texture. This slow cooling not only creates a visual dialog in thick and thin areas of glaze application, but also helps with the crystallization of certain materials, which adds depth and interest to the glaze.
I spray or dip glazes over each other. My experience is that no single glaze can provide a visually interesting surface in an electric kiln, although there may certainly be exceptions. My layering technique allows the many differing glaze materials to combine and melt in unique ways, providing a visually interesting surface with depth. All of this is caused by the interactions of multiple materials applied over each other. Applying glazes over textures in the clay allows the melted glaze to pool. A thicker concentration of glaze materials in these areas yields different areas of color.
When mixing and testing glazes for future use on your pottery, it is useful to try different methods of combining glazes. For example, if you mix up a few small test batches of different glazes, try dipping one glaze over the other on the top rim of your test tile. Then reverse the order. For instance, if you dip glaze A over glaze B, then do another tile with glaze B dipped over glaze A.
Most glazes have a range of several pyrometric cones. I fire my cone 6 glazes to cone 7 using a programmable controller with the following heating and cooling cycle:
- 1st segment - 50°F/hour to 220°F
- 2nd segment - 250°F/hour to 2167°F
- 3rd segment - 150°F/hour to 1500°F
I have found that this provides a better melt and allows a good mingling of the many layers of glaze. It’s necessary to experiment and test your glazes to determine their range. Kiln wash or stilts under your ware is a necessity! It is fine to program a “hold” into the end of the second segment if you have a single zone kiln and wish to try to even out the firing from top to bottom. With the introduction of multiple zone controls on many of the new kilns, a soak at the end is not really necessary. If you don’t have a computer-controlled kiln, use the infinite switches to “fire down” the kiln. With the addition of a pyrometer and a decent thermocouple, you can achieve a reasonable controlled cooling cycle.
It’s important to keep accurate records so when you get results that are pleasing, you can repeat them. In an electric kiln, repeatable results are easier to achieve than in a fuel-burning kiln, especially if your electric kiln is equipped with a programmable controller. There is no substitute for experimenting. It takes time and persistence to achieve the surfaces that are pleasing to you. No one glaze or method will work. It is a combination of glazes and applications, followed by the proper firing with a controlled cooling cycle.
Techniques and Tips for Electric Kilns: Inspiration, Instruction and Glaze Recipes for Electric Kiln Firing also includes the following:
Atmospheric-like Effects for Electric Pottery Kilns
by Steven Hill
Proving that a neutral or oxidizing atmosphere in an electric pottery kiln can produce exciting results similar to those in atmospheric kilns, Steven Hill focuses on layering glazes and a single-firing schedule. Start with his glaze recipes and firing schedule to get great success in electric kilns.
How to Clean Kiln Shelves, Mix Kiln Wash, and Apply Kiln Wash
by Vince Pitelka
Kiln shelf maintenance is a much hated but very necessary part of having a kiln. Neglected kiln shelves can result in flakes of kiln wash landing smack dab in the middle of a beautiful glaze surface. In this article, an excerpt from Clay: A Studio Handbook, 2nd edition, Vince Pitelka gives some tips on scraping kiln shelves, mixing kiln wash, and shares a couple of kiln wash recipes. Follow his advice and kiln wash flakes fused to a glaze will be a thing of the past!
About Ceramic Arts Daily:
Ceramic Arts Daily is a free online website and newsletter written and produced for the benefit of potters and ceramic artists worldwide. The newsletter features both renowned and emerging artists, their work, techniques and artistic perspectives. Regular features include tips and techniques designed to help every artist expand their skill set and widen their artistic horizons. Ceramic Arts Daily also delivers video tips, in which potters and ceramic artists demonstrate various projects and processes. Think of them as e-workshops! Ceramic Arts Daily is designed to be interactive, inviting your comments and fostering a community in which each person can contribute to the growth of their own and others' skills. You may be surprised at what you learn! Ceramic artists on Ceramic Arts Daily know what ceramic art is all about - from functional pottery to abstract ceramic sculpture. This is about community. You'll be drawn in by artists' stories, inspired by their work and find confidence to try some of their techniques. With Ceramic Arts Daily, you'll learn a little bit of everything. Then you can choose the techniques you enjoy the most to create something new! So start today by downloading our free Techniques and Tips for Electric Kilns: Inspiration, Instruction and Glaze Recipes for Electric Kiln Firing. Then, get ready for Ceramic Arts Daily to introduce you to new artists and show you new techniques!