Kiln fired clay questions...

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Hello all,

My apologies, wandering around lost not sure where to post this
subject, hopefully someone will be able to steer or assist.

Yesterday I attended an art show in Tulsa. Fabulous art, wonderful
things to see.

Though not the centerpiece of her work, one lady was selling a bowl
of various clay pieces featuring various short phrases such as "Live,
Love, Laugh" (my favorite find) "Smile More" and so forth. They appear
to be small rolls of clay pressed into a small circle, then stamped with
metal alphabet letters. The backs of them were glazed.

As my last true clay / kiln experiences were back in high school, could
anyone assist with my questions? I would very much love to make some
of these for friends and relatives, but am not sure what type of clay, the
firing, glazing, etc.

I assume the pieces were flattened, stamped and fired, then flipped over,
glazed and fired again?

Many thanks for any input,

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Your assumption about the firing steps is correct.

Do you have a place to fire the pieces? What kind of kiln and what temperature would you be firing to? Sorry to answer questions with questions but I can give you better answers once I know.

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)


Thanks for your reply! I have an Evenheat kiln,
here are the basics:

"EVENHEAT" brand. Model 5320LT. 240 VOLTS.

I finally took a picture of the item I am trying to duplicate,
here is one, with one more to follow:

Thumbnail by WUVIE
Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Here is the bottom of the piece; which is glazed:

Based on what I can find, it has been suggested this
is Earthenware low fire red clay.

Unfortunately I know not much more, but am still doing

:-) Thanks for your input! KM

Thumbnail by WUVIE
Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Almost forgot to mention, the lady at the clay company
I called said I may be able to get away with stamping, air
drying, glazing then firing only once.

Though I'm far from a potter, I wonder if maybe that is
why the edges of the Live, Love, Laugh disc were cracked.
Perhaps they were subject to but one firing only after air drying?


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

You probably could get away with one firing. If you do a one fire make sure that the clay is TOTALLY dry and make more than one of an item you want to make sure you get. There is more breakage when you one fire. You are doing small pieces which helps.

The cracking on the edges looks like it comes from how they were made. I would guess balls of clay were pressed down with the palm of their hand or a rounded object and left without smoothing out the edges.

It looks like an low fire Earthenware to me.

I checked the Evenheat site and they only showed the 5320XL which runs on 50 Amps so I can't comment about the kiln, but it will fire low fire clay.

Make sure the back is good and flat to glue the magnet on.
One bag of clay and one jar of glaze should make a lot of them.

You get a more even firing when the kiln is full, but it won't hurt the kind of pieces you are making. If you were doing a set of dishes or a sculpture that would be where you would want a full kiln.

If you have any other questions as you go just ask.

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Many thanks, Zen.

The magnet was my addition only because we have
many objects featuring "Live, Love, Laugh" in the kitchen,
so it became a refrigerator magnet. :-)

I certainly appreciate your input and offer to further assist
if needed! Many thanks!

Karen Marie

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

You are welcome.


Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

I single-fire all my tiles and other "flat" pieces, even to cone 10. I roll out my slabs and let them sit for a bit, and then (I think it's Pauline who gave me this suggestion) I dust them with corn starch with an old dusting powder puff. You can use a biscuit-cutter for those nice even rounds.

After I cut them, to help keep them from warping, I put them on a sheet of "greenboard"---the sheetrock they make for bathrooms. I top them with a couple more sheets of it. My smaller tiles (2" and less) are fine just leaving to dry at that point. But for 4" tiles and larger pieces, I pick up the two pieces of sheetrock with the tiles sandwiched between them, and flip them after about 24 hours, and put the other 2 sheets back on top. If they're really large pieces, I flip them again after another day. That process seems to really help keep them flat.

For the stamps, you can use alphabet noodles or metal stamps, or you can write in the clay with chopsticks---I like the bamboo ones.

After they're dry, I usually clean the rough edges on mine with a damp sponge before I glaze and fire. When I fire, I put my gas kiln on pilot all night, and then start firing the next day. You could probably put your dried pieces in a 150-200 degree oven all night to make sure all the moisture is driven out.

The advantage I see to bisqueing the pieces with words on them is that you could use iron-oxide as a sponged wash on the bisque to bring out the colors of the letters. I don't know of a way to do that successfully on greenware, but Pauline may.


Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

I like the way you once fire your tiles. Most of my work is sculptural and It seems to be harder to make sure it is totally dry. The other thing is I can spend a couple of weeks on a piece and I would hate to see it blow up.

I don't know of any way to use iron-oxide to bring out the colors on green ware.If you try sponging off the excess you would make the surface rough and may just have the piece get to wet and lose what you have.

I don't use iron oxide, but I do use stains a lot and the same would happen with them.

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Well, I'm glad I haven't been missing out on a really good technique all these years!~

I forgot to mention that I paint 4 coats of glaze (each going a different direction) on my tiles. No dipping or pouring, of course, or they'd dissolve.

I have a FULL load that I'm firing now---biggest I've ever fired in this little kiln. I've been sacrificing to the kiln gods all day----and keeping my fingers crossed, too!

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Nice looking tiles. Is the pattern the last layer? Do you use a tin based white glaze? How far apart do you have your shelves? I haven't made many tiles and am never sure how close together the shelves can be.

What are you giving those kiln gods? I have yet to make one for a firing, I keep thinking I should.

I haven't been working with clay much lately, due to a torn rotary cuff in my left shoulder. I had to figure out how to make something one handed since I am taking a class. There isn't much you can do with one hand. I am going to try using my left hand with clay today and see how it goes. My class meets tonight.

Springfield, OH(Zone 5b)

HI everyone, I have been lurking here off and on for a while.. Used to do pottery in High School.. Our HS had a pretty advanced art program which I didn't fully appreciate until years later. so I am wishing I had a kiln and have been eagerly reading anytime someone posts about firing clay.

Wuvie, if you don't like the cracking and don't want to use a cutter to make your rounds you can use your finger to smooth the edges while and after you are flattening the discs. depends on how big the cracks are. little ones can be smoothed with a damp sponge.

I used to do a lot with oxides but always after pieces had been fired once. I don't think you would be able to remove the excess very effectively without removing clay also.

When just using glazes we used to partially glaze greenware and didn't have too much trouble with breakage. I don't know what kind of kiln we had but I do know it was a large walk in model. mindboggling now to think of it.

Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Thank you all so much for all of your wonderful information.

Today I'm heading for the big town, hopefully to return
with a box of clay with which to play. A particular hobby
store offers a 40% off coupon this week, perhaps I'll use
it for a big box of clay.

:-) KM

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Go for it.

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks! I'm trying to finish up the inserts for my walkway and patio----these are sort of like a sampler.

I use a stable white glaze, and paint the design on with cobalt oxide or cobalt carb (or a combination, depending on what I've got). I really struggle with brushstrokes and design, so if I get something that works, I do a big batch because I'll never be able to do it again!

I can put the shelves on my small tiles like these REALLY close together (1/2 inch) but if I have 4" or larger, they can warp and bow in the middle, and stick to the upper shelf if they're that close together (unfortunately, I know this from experience.....) So I always put at least 1" posts on all of them.

The chimney's off, and I'm waiting for the kiln to cool down so I can crack the lid.....nerve-wracking!!!

You've had a rough year, Pauline! Hope you're on the mend soon!!!

Karen-Marie, let us know what kind of clay you end up with!

Time to get to work, now, or I won't be able to buy glaze ingredients......

Springfield, OH(Zone 5b)

oh wow.. the anticipation!! Hope you post pictures!

Social Circle, GA(Zone 8a)

Can we see the tiles? :D

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)


Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Soon....I'm still unloading, and I'm documenting every step for you. I didn't eat lunch so I could unload my kiln, and I'm getting a little giddy...LOL!

I promise you will all be bored absolutely out of your skulls by the time I finish posting pictures tonight. But first I have to get my flowcharts done for work....darn WORK!!!

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

Day jobs are a pain.

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Pauline, I forgot to mention that I sprinkle a thin layer of grog on the shelves before I load. It seems to help keep them from sticking and warping. I'm NOT a fan of kiln wash--it just flakes off and blows around. I use it when I have to, but the grog seems to do the trick for smaller tiles.

OK, TADA here's all you could EVER want to see of loading and unloading a small gas kiln! The top 2 shelves were underfired, and I'll have to redo some of the stuff that was on them, including a big elephant ear I was really anxious to get out. Hopefully it won't crack when I refire it---but if it does, that's what mosaics are for, right?

Bottom shelf:

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Next one:

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Springfield, OH(Zone 5b)

IMA.. do you sell your tiles? are they custom orders? Or do you just make them for yourself?
Also I would like to see some close up shot of the stuff coming out please

This message was edited Oct 15, 2007 8:39 PM

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Jazz, I would love to sell them, but finding customers and doing custom orders while I'm still working fulltime is not appealing. Maybe when I retire I'll get serious and start selling on eBay---if I can figure out how to PACK the stuff!! In the meantime, I make the garlic trivets to donate for fundraiser raffles, and planters & bowls and things for gifts.

Most of the blue and white tiles are for my own projects that are taking me forever...LOL! But I'm getting faster and learning a lot. This kiln can be a real heartbreaker, because it's difficult to fire evenly from top to bottom.

Here's the next shelf full:

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

There were a couple in between here, but has is my second batch of pot feet that I'm designing that I posted in another forum. They all came out, and I'm very anxious to get them under pots and see how they do!

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

How's this for a close-up, Jazz?
I've learned to tape the sets together as I'm taking them out of the kiln. Otherwise when it's time to set them, it's like a jigsaw puzzle!

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Strapping tape is best, and then I stack and store them in plastic jars till I'm ready to set them.

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

So here's the lot---every one of my 4" tiles is bowed up, and the elephant ear needs to be refired, but all in all not a bad load.
Thanks for your patience, and Karen-Marie, I apologize for thoroughly hijacking your thread!!!

Thumbnail by imapigeon
Hulbert, OK(Zone 7a)

Oh, look at this! I'm gone all day and you all have been
having fun without me!

Not only did I have to drive to a huge town today, but I
was in the middle of a hobby store looking around to my
heart's content when a potential employer called me in
for a test. *POUT*

What's a girl to do? No time to look, no time to find something
for my coupon, it was not a fun trip at all! So, needless to say,
I came home without ANY clay. The only clay they had was something
that dried to a gray finish, not what I wanted. :-(

Janet, please don't ever worry about hijacking, I love reading all
these posts. Please, everyone, anything and everything is a good
read for me, as I'm pretty much a kiln newbie. I simply love those tiles!

:-) KM

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

KarenMarie, paycheck is good, so there is money for hobbies. It's the only reason I still work---well, that and paying the bills......~~

Mableton, GA(Zone 7b)

what could you have done to keep the 4" tiles from bowing? i'm assuming they were flat before?

Social Circle, GA(Zone 8a)


I'm going to need more shelves and posts...

This message was edited Oct 16, 2007 12:25 PM

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

The tiles are lovely, strapping them together like that is such a good idea. that blue is so rich. The garlic dishes look great.

Guess you know what you will do when you retire.

I am planning to make a mold for a spoon rest for gifts. I was looking for a simple spoon rest like were available at one point in time. Guess I am going to have to make one to make a mold of. They are all some kind of food and I want a very simple one that I can paint to individualize.

I went to the physical therapist today. Still no lifting. I can do anything else that doesn't hurt. Now to find things that don't hurt.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Ay yi yi - pobrecita.

(Expression of sympathy in Espanol).

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

eco, yes, the 4" tiles were definitely flat before. I'm not sure why they warped, but they were all on the upper shelf that underfired. I'm going to try refiring them and see if they flatten out. All of the pieces in the lower part of the kiln that actually overfired a bit were nice and flat. I scored them all on the back, and they all had grog under them, so there was good air flow, so it's a mystery to me. This is the second time the 4" squares have fired like this.

Thank you ALL for the kind words about my stuff; I was really pleased with the way the brushwork came out this time. Now if I can just remember which brushes I used......I seem to do better with the smaller tiles. The 4" ones are just too big for me to paint---they're not even fun!! I think I'll stick to plain glaze on them for a while.

Jazz, did the closer picture I posted show you what you wanted to see, or were you looking for a REAL close-up? Let me know, and I'll take a couple more pix on the weekend if you tell me what you want a shot of.

Springfield, OH(Zone 5b)

Oh gal I love closeup shots.. you should see me at art shows and galleries. I like to get right in there and see how things are done. I want to see a closer pick of some of the other pieces you had in that batch.. the one large flat piece..was that your elephant ear?? and those interesting pieces with the white on them..

Gilroy (Sunset Z14), CA(Zone 9a)

Those "interesting pieces with the white on them" might have been the cone packs with the white firing cones?
The only shot of the elephant ear is the last one with all the stuff on top of the AC unit (it's a handy horizontal surface). It's got tiles and cones and a bunch of stuff sitting in it. The glaze came out really nasty since it's underfired. It's supposed to be a nice glossy dark green. Next time!

The other large flat pieces were my 2 garlic trivets. Both of those came out nice, but one of them has a big chunk of clay on it that came from who knows where? I don't know if I can salvage it or not. Ceramics is always such an adventure!

DH gave me a new camera for my b'day that has better closeup capability, so I'll practice this weekend!

Springfield, OH(Zone 5b)

sh..I bet so.. that is why some were flopped over..duh... this is why I need close-ups. I saw those clumps of clay and what in the heck are those things..

Can you tell I have never run a kiln

This message was edited Oct 17, 2007 7:08 AM

Minneapolis, MN(Zone 4b)

The garlic plates are so inventive. Are they flat?

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or register to post.

Upload Images to your reply

    You may upload up to 5 images