"Do the thing and you shall have the power. But they who do not the thing, have not the power."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Process: Pottery - "Growing a Studio"

It was four years after I threw my first pot that I started to seriously think about establishing my own pottery studio. While I enjoyed the benefits of potting in a community environment, it was costly, time consuming and was not readily accessible. Practice was limited to one or two sessions a week. It was time to take the first big step in becoming serious about pottery.

In 2001, I started to build my studio in the unfinished portion of the basement. I installed a double-wide utility sink, purchased a Brent CXC wheel and a 7.0 cubic foot Skutt electric kiln with controller. Shelving, workbenches, pottery tools and utensils were added and I was in business. I threw and bisque fired my pots at home then schlepped them to a Fired Up studio in Minneapolis where they were glazed and fired to cone 10 in a reduction atmosphere (about 2350 degrees Fahrenheit).

Into the Raku firing technique at the time, I soon located a used 10 cubic foot, ring segmented gas kiln. It was portable and could be built to any size needed by simply stacking the required number of soft fire brick rings. I changed the LP gas orifices to natural gas so that the kiln could be set-up just outside the garage where a natural gas line was located. I began mixing glazes. This set-up worked quite well and I would soon be doing 8 -10 raku firings a season. I felt that establishing a firing process added more validity to my fledgling pottery operation.

Over the next couple of years my studio grew in stages. New equipment additions included a Northstar slab roller and extruder, a must for any serious studio. Improvements included installing drywall, adding more lighting, and making it more comfortable as a work environment. More shelving was eventually added, a sign that production was growing.

I worked content for a few years doing cone 10 reduction firings in Minneapolis and raku firing at home. My work had evolved to a degree, but not at the speed nor to the level I had envisioned. Operations and creativity had become somewhat stale as I became weary of carting my pots for outside firing services. Change was on the horizon. I entered the next phase of pottery development with a renewed sense of direction and focus. In order to break into the next level, my studio and approach to ceramics had to become fully self-sustaining.

My work has always been cone 10 reduction fired, whether it was in community classes, college courses or a private business studio. This method has been the holy grail of ceramics firing for generations and was sought by all serious potters. But, like everything else, attitudes in the potting community began to change as technology advanced. I had been interested in exploring cone 6 firing (2264 degrees Fahrenheit) since I first started in ceramics. The color palette of available glazes seems to be infinite, much more so than cone 10 glazes. Modern cone 6 glazes are achieving outstanding results, some rivaling cone 10 reduction. Wanting to do something different, and practical, I decided to pursue cone 6 firing in my studio. I could use my electric kiln vs. buying a gas kiln for cone 10 reduction. Cone 6 requires a shorter firing time, uses less energy, not as involved as gas reduction firing, and is not as damaging to the kiln.

I began my research into cone 6 glazes, buying books, surfing the net and consulting with pottery friends. In the fall of 2007 I decided I would transform my tool shed, were my electric kiln was housed, into a fully dedicated pottery barn. Preferring the control and layering effects afforded through glaze spraying, I decided to install a spray booth. It was good practical sense in that large vats of glaze are required for the dipping method of glazing. Not a production potter by any means, a spraying operation meant I could mix small batches of glaze as required and it allowed more flexibility in testing new glazes. I purchased a Laguna Pro-X spray booth (47 1/2"H x 30 3/4"W x 34"D), a refurbed 1000 cfm squirrel cage blower, compressor and spray guns. A local heating and air-conditioning contractor helped design and supply the necessary sheet metal to interface the blower to the booth and the outside vent. The booth was installed and operational before winter set in.

Starting in 2006, my pottery vessels matured in form and have grown generally larger. Suddenly, I had severely outgrown my 7.0 cubic foot kiln. During the winter of 2007/08 I researched the electric kiln market and ultimately decided on a Cone Art 2336, 12.0 cubic foot, oval kiln with Bartlett controller which was delivered in the spring of 2008. The pottery barn was rewired to accommodate both electric kilns and more lighting then a sink was added. I was ready anxious to begin a real firing operation. Having researched glazes all winter, I developed a palette of 30 glazes with varying colors and finishes. After calibrating the new kiln I test fired the new glazes. The results had exceeded my expectations. Cone 6 has been officially added to my repertoire of firing methods. Adding this new dimension to my potting experience encourages me more to look for more. As artists grow, so must their environment in order to achieve all that is possible.