While many of my animal sculptures are made with air dry clay and other mixed media, I love to sculpt with ceramics. There is something incomparable about the texture and weight of earthenware that is difficult to reproduce. Then there's the unpredictable nature of glazing and firing in general. You never know exactly what you're going to get: Your piece may be beautiful or a total disaster. Either way the process is super fun.
The Crux of Ceramics at Home
Working with ceramic clay inside an apartment is totally doable (obviously). There are a couple of safety considerations; mainly, control the dust from dry clay and be careful not to put clay down your drains, but other than that, have at it!
In order to have your ceramics pieces fully "mature" though, you really need one main piece of equipment - a kiln, or some way to get your clay to a high enough temp to fuse the particles that gives ceramic its strength.
Overcoming the expense and logistics of acquiring a kiln are moot points if you have no where to safely install such a piece of equipment. And this brings us back to us apartment dwellers.
Now, before you start telling me that there are small kilns that can be used in apartment, keep your breath to cool your porridge. I have looked into those and a) they are very tiny - maybe good enough to make beads, b) they still produce off-gassing and need very good ventilation, and finally c) the insurance implications for a kiln inside an apartment are insane.
So, what is someone who wants to make ceramics, but doesn't have a kiln do?
The dream: my own pottery studio
Creative Solutions: Local Resources
The non-artists out there may imagine that there is very a straight forward solution to the above problem: simply rent an art studio, buy a kiln, and live happily ever after. Ah, if only. Sadly, the financial realities (let alone finding an available art space) make this a non-viable option for many, myself included.The challenges I have with making pottery are not uncommon, and yet I still manage to create artwork somewhat regularly. If you too are in this predicament, here are some options you can look into:
Community centers are a great place to start as they often have a pottery studio with kilns that are available to students of courses. They also have drop-in hours where you can work on additional pieces. You may also be able to find pottery courses being held by ceramicists in your city. Community centers tend to have very affordable programs as they are subsidized by the city, but the courses, at least in my experience, fill up incredibly quickly. Check the program guides for sign up dates etc to make sure you can snag a spot.
Some community or arts centers, in addition to courses, also rent their kilns out for bisque or glaze firings to anyone willing to pay the fees. These rentals will generally include the time of a technician who will run the kiln for you (which is a relief for me because I don't know the first thing about working a kiln). Some places may not advertise this fact, so it pays to ask! If you couldn't fill a whole kiln with only your own work, you could always try to find other ceramicists to split the cost of the rental. Which brings me to the next option:
Local pottery/ceramic clubs
A great way to not only meet like-minded folks, but also to organize group firings. Scour the internet and facebook, or maybe even ask at your community center, library or arts organization if they know of any local groups. I have seen pottery clubs that are based at community centers as well as those "managed" by motivated individuals. Some members may also have their own kilns and be willing to fire your work with their own if you use an appropriate clay.
Nothing local? For those of you on the edge of the world, there is a marvellous Facebook Group called Clay Buddies where you might find a ceramicists to network with. Alternatively, you can try and start your own pottery group in your area.
A lovely pottery studio in a community center
Make the Dream Work
Artists have to be creative to get things done, and these sorts of hurdles are no exception. My latest ceramic firing was done through a local pottery group that I found on Facebook. Through this group I was able to get my piece bisque fired and then a group raku fire, all while meeting amazing artists. I hope to get more involved and keep this growing local community going. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and find your local ceramicists and start firing!
My locally fired raku piece: Zen Horse VIII
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