Every potter and ceramic artist has at some point dreaded the “bad load” coming out of the kiln. When things don’t turn the way we expect, we tend to get quite upset.

Having worked so far either at school or a community studio, I have never been able to load my own kiln and it often happens that pieces get broken or overfired. Getting upset and blaming it on the technician is not going to change anything.

There are also many factors that could have influenced the way the piece turns out such as the proximity of the piece with another glaze that reacted chemically, glitches in the kiln elements resulting in overheating…

The best advice I ever got from one of my mentors, Jim Thomson, was to learn to LET GO of expectations. Once the work is in the kiln, it’s not up to you anymore.

If things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, acknowledge your disappointment and move on quickly to look at each piece in an analytical manner.

Ask questions such as:

  • What actually worked?
  • Is there anything that wasn’t intended that you could work from or with (you might have to give a different meaning to the piece, or might try to repeat the result with other pieces or add a twist to it)?
  • What can you learn from what happened (take notes of what you do when making a piece and when possible the firing conditions and results)

Remember that you can always add underglaze(s) or some glaze (not too much, and leave unglazed space at the bottom as it will tend to run) onto the piece and refire it.

In the end, you will come to realize that fewer pieces than expected might be a total loss.

Either way, there’s always the next load… 🙂