That is what I found when I opened the kiln last week.
I immediately closed the kiln.
Turned off the vent.
Turned off the light.
Shut the door and left the room.
I got in my car and drove away.
I tried not to think about it for the rest of the night.
The devastation inside the kiln was so bad, shards of bisque clay had sprayed out from one pile to the next in such a massive burst of annihilation, I could not tell how many or if EVERY project on the top shelf had been destroyed.
It was proof that the shelves below would share the same fate.
The only way effectively clean out the kiln when it is full of that much debris is the pull out the shop vac and suck it all up.
That night, I had a dream that Jesse Degonia and Tim Gun had flooded the kiln room. The room was full of water and I was wandering around outside searching for the kiln, because it was full of hundreds of clay projects and my students were missing them. I could not find the kiln anywhere because Jesse and Tim had hidden it from me.
The next day, I went back into the kiln room.
I unloaded the kiln, shelf by shelf, dumping the spare parts, fragments and residue into the boxes.
Thankfully, not every piece was destroyed, but several from the two classes that were in the kiln at the time were pulverized.
During class, I told the kids that the clay wasn't ready, it needed a few extra days to dry so I was trying to play it safe and not rush it....putting clay in the kiln before it is bone dry is most likely what caused the explosions in the first place.
When it is cold in the kiln room, the clay takes longer to dry out.....which equals WEEKS before students can glaze and take home their projects, an eternity in the life of a 5th grader.
I told one 5th grade day class about the kiln mishap.....I giggled nervously about the explosions.
I was so freaked out that I was either going to laugh or cry and I just had to make myself laugh because it was too late to change anything. I told them that I had to laugh because otherwise I would cry.
Yesterday, I had to inform the classes of the busted artwork that SOME kids might not be able to find their heads or their bodies because we had a 'few' explosions in the kiln.
I told them that some of the clay was so utterly pulverized that I could not even read the names....but those 'lucky' kids would get to remake their head/body today and commence to glaze it after spring break.
All total, there were about 5-6 in each class that need to remake the head.
A few were happy because the new one was better than the old one.
No body cried.
I've had kids cry because they could not draw a circle before.
I was elated that they were so nice about it!!!
In the end, everything turned out okay, even though I did lose a little sleep over it.
p.s. In case you are curious, we are making clay bobble head sculptures. Students could choose a cat or dog (some turned theirs into a pig/wolf/bird etc.) For each sculpture, they had to build the base one day, using a cardboard tube as the under structure.
The 2nd day, they had to make a pinch pot and attach the details for eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. While they worked on the head, I went to each person's body and removed the cardboard tube, checking to make sure the cone on the top wasn't too thick--which can cause air to be trapped inside the clay which can make it blow up in the kiln.
Both pieces had to dry for at least a week before I could fire them.
I can only fit about 2.5 classes in the kiln at a time since each sculpture is essentially TWO pieces.
I have about 325 students, so it is close to 700 separate pieces of clay that have to be transported into the kiln room, set to dry, placed in the kiln, fired, removed from the kiln, and transported back to the art room.
Then, students will spend two class periods glazing, then they have to be re-transported to the kiln room, re-loaded into the kiln, fired, unloaded and transported back to the art room.
Then they have to be wrapped up and taken home.
All total, I have to handle EACh piece 3-4 times, so I am really thankful this is the only major issue so far. All that transporting back and forth means the fragile pieces could break just by one drop of the box on the floor.
The BEST time to open the kiln, is after the clay has been glazed and it is all glassy and shiny. I hope to post a picture of that soon. In the mean time, I will be trying to get all 700 pieces bisque fired!
Here is a little time lapse I made Friday morning of myself unloading and loading the kiln, in case you are curious.
This is my 'slice of life' blog.
My Art Teacher Blog:
This Little Class of Mine