Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ceramic Leaves

I turn into an instant 5 year old whenever stuff has been fired over night.  I race into school, throw down my bags and throw open the kiln-- and this morning these beauties awaited me.  This is the first school where I've had a kiln in four years-- so it's a lot of re-learning.  And since I only took one ceramics class in college it's a lot of learning, period.

For the first few classes I had the kids roll their own slabs before rolling on the leaves...then it was like World War Three in the kiln-- ka-boom, ka- BOOOM-- oh my.  So I used a slab roller for the rest of them and they were fine.

The process was easy-- get a leaf (since we live on a compound in the middle of the desert there aren't many big leaves to choose from-- these are all from one poor tree in my front yard).  Roll the leaf onto the slab vein side down and cut around it.  Peel off the leaf and you're done.  Actually you don't even need to peel off the leaf if you don't want to, it will burn off in the kiln.

The glaze was also a bit of an experiment-- since I FORGOT to order glaze for next year I am trying to conserve.  We have to do all international orders in November, and I hadn't braved doing ceramics yet-- so out of sight out of mind.  Whoops. So I have a huge amount of underglaze left by my predecessor and not enough clear transparent to cover it.  Not great for little ones who like their stuff shiny.

I had a grand glaze conserving scheme to do one layer of underglaze and then use 2 layers of my coveted "regular glaze" (I only have about 10 bottles) on top of it.  Art teacher genius, right? how they turned out...
Bleck, art teacher FAIL

What we ended up doing was painting with 2 different colors of underglaze and then when it was dry, a sprinkling of one more underglaze color.  I tried to get them to work quickly so that the colors would blend a bit.  Then I used three coats of clear transparent on all of them and they're ready to pop in the kiln.


  1. Nice leaves!

    I have had 3 'ka-booms' in the kiln over the past 8 years....ugh, I really sympathize with you. I try to minimize this by setting the speed setting to 'slow' (I had been using medium) for the bisque firing on my Skutt electric kiln. It adds about 12 hours to firing time. It is supposed to let any secret moisture trapped in the greenware escape slowly and avoid explosions. Not sure what sort of kiln you have out there in Saudi Arabia, but I would love to spare any art teacher the misery of the kiln explosion.

    Rina at

  2. I second the firing at slow! I have been teaching children ceramics for several years and I only have the occasional explosion. The key is to make sure that they are REALLY dry before firing. The leaves look wonderful! Keep playing in the mud! :-)