Firing Large Ceramics

NZ artist Karen Wilde holding large Puia Volcano ceramic pottery

Let’s be honest, when it comes to art, bigger is “usually” better when it comes to the laws of viewer attraction. There is a reason that large scale installations draw most of the attention (good or bad) at museums and galleries. I’m not saying that smaller works can’t be equally eye-catching or enthralling, I myself am a huge fan of the macro and miniature world, but the public will generally first take notice of the space-dominating nature that is a large scale artwork. Works that force us to stop and ponder the nature of how it was constructed and in particular to ceramicists, “how on mother nature’s great clay earth did you fire that?!?”

I recently fired my biggest piece to date in my homemade Raku kiln. It’s still rather tiny when compared to say the giant pots of Jingdezhen but I’m learning about what scale works I can produce within the current setup available to me. There are certain challenges around firing larger pieces (specifically in a fast firing kiln) ranging from initial firing temperatures and glaze selection to basic handling, stacking and cool-down procedures. I talk about some of these challenges in this youtube video:

What if I don’t have access to a large kiln?

Think about making large scale objects through mass creation. For example, French artist Grégoire Scalabre, inspired by the Greek sea nymph Thetis, constructed this massive sculpture from 70,000 individual ceramic vases! As I’m currently juggling two part-time jobs (three if you include being an artist) I might not be making thousands of handbuilt objects anytime soon, but I can start to conceptualize bigger pieces without being hindered by owning a mini-sized kiln.

Image courtesy My Modern Met

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