Talking about heat, can be a controversial subject. First, this proves that ceramicists need new hobbies; second it is quite a ridiculous thing to be defensive over. I know that heat, it tied into one’s own ceramic identity. Now, some of you may say that I am exaggerating, but I have gotten in screaming matches over temperature.
Are you making Porcelain or Terra Cotta, Pit or Tunnel Kiln, Pristine Gloss or Raku, the temperature we work at defines our work almost more then the clay itself. I’m not here to say that this is not how it should be, temperature is important, temperature is imperative. But as with all things, temperature is not what we think it is.
What is heat? We talk about cones, we talk about temperature; we talk about Gas and Elements. I’m speaking of the Heat itself. Heat doesn’t care about its fuel or kilns that contain it. In fact, a kiln has nothing to do with firing the work; a kiln is a box meant to contain heat. Heat is the result of combination of fuel and oxygen combusted or electricity and resistance. That’s it. In fact, fire as we know it is just a byproduct of combustion, there’s no fire in an electric kiln is there? Why? No fuel.
So what is this heat then? Heat is the reflection of expended energy. The same way, when you work out, you expend energy. Your body consumes fuel and puts out performance. Heat is a byproduct. For us in ceramics, that byproduct is a very handy one.
When you took chemistry in High School, your best friend (or worst enemy) was the Bunsen Burner. This nasty little device (I had a fight with one once and still have a scar on my wrist to show for it) is responsible, for providing heat for the class. You see heat is imperative to the chemical process. Much like cooking, you really need to apply heat to get things moving. Admittedly there are some applications where you don’t need heat (Raw Sodium +H2O or Sushi). But for the most part, you need heat to get chemicals to do their little dance of love.
I bring up chemistry class very specifically. I have ranted before on this blog about chemistry, but let me state this again. When you are involved in ceramics you are committing acts of chemistry. End of Story. If you don’t like it, then you are more then welcome to take a long walk off a short pier. It is these acts of chemistry that allow us to do what we do. Chemistry makes clay and glazes.
Anyhoo, back to heat. So this all leads us to the notion of the temperature. Of course temperature is just the reflection of the volume of heat. But temperature is important to ceramics. The notion of progress is based in our ability to generate greater and greater temperatures. Starting at least18,000 years ago according to recent discoveries. Man put clay in a fire, that made the clay hard and (relatively) rugged, Ever since then, the study of ceramics has been “How do we make this more rugged?”
Well jump forward a bit. Eventually people figured out that you needed to get clay hotter then normal fire could produce, and the kiln was developed. This allowed for higher and higher temperatures to be generated, because as stated earlier, a kiln is just a box for containing heat. And the temperatures were getting higher and higher, and it was good.
Then they hit a wall…
NEXT TIME on SLIPCAST BLOG!
Europeans prove that they are not all that smart, and China enters the game, Kicking Ass and Taking Names.
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