Thursday, January 13, 2011
There goes the Kiln
I do clay with the 5th-8th graders before winter break and with k-4th and life skills from January till mid May. My kiln is pretty small. It lives in a small closet with the floor waxer and other janitorial supplies. I have to keep the kiln fan, a vent fan and two extra fans running while the kiln runs so that the closet does not get too hot. Buying enough clay for the entire school uses up more than half of my budget for the entire year.
I started clay projects in earnest the first week back after winter break. Already we have made clay fortune cookies inspired by Katie at Adventures of an Art teacher and pinch pot funny face fish for 3rd grade. 6 classes have projects made and ready to fire.
I popped some of the cookies into the kiln on Thursday and ran the kiln as usual (I have to manually change the temp on the kiln and we don't have a pyromeater, its more a guess and watch the clock method ) I rely on the kiln sitter and the slump cone to shut off the kiln.
On Friday morning I went to unload the kiln and as I entered the closet I knew something was very wrong. I opened the door and a wave of heat hit me. Glowing orange in the dark was the kiln and waves of heat shimmed in the closet as I turned on the light and the fans that had turned off when the 12 hour timers were up.
The kiln had not shut off. I quickly unplugged everything and thanked god that I hadn't set the school on fire. By Monday the kin had cooled off enough to open up and found a batch of melted clay fortune cookies. Why didn't the kiln shut down? Apparently the cone had melted but then somehow fused onto the sitter not allowing the shut off bar to fall all the way and release the latch. Further investigation showed a metal tab that holds up the cone had come loose and was hanging down with the fused cone. Well poop. I couldn't use the kiln till I replaced the part. On the plus side the part is only $80 and I know how to replace it. Our kiln is older than me so I expect to do maintenance now and then.
I went to the principal to have him sign the order for the new part and he REFUSED to sign it. He wants someone from the district to come assess and fix the kiln. (I've been told it will take up to two months for them to come look at the kiln!) I whined and begged, pointing out that I have already spend $250 on clay and glaze for the year and 2/3 of it is still unused. He won't budge.
I do worry the kiln is a fire hazard. But I really just want to fix the part, complete the year and wait till summer for any major change. I asked the principal if he would replace the kiln if needed and he said only if we could get a grant to pay for it.
I'm not sure what to do. I have spent so much of our budget to buy the clay and the kids are soooo looking forward to their projects. Beyond that, even if I hold off on any other projects for the rest of the year what am I going to do with the 6 classes of projects waiting to be fired? I've already emailed the art teachers in my cluster and no one is willing to fire my projects for me!!! (jeez thanks fellow teachers) Now I may have to pay out of my own pocket to take the 6 classes of projects to a local ceramic studio who wants $1 per piece to fire but may be willing to go down to .50 a item since we are a school. Even at .50 an item it will cost about $75 to fire the current projects!