Firing, and Re-firing

Did you know that every ceramic element I make gets fired twice? The first is a lower temperature and is called a bisque fire. When the pieces come out of this first firing they are called bisqueware meaning that the clay has been fired once and is unglazed. The second firing is a high temperature fire and is to set the glaze and in the case of my pieces to give the items their glossy surface. On occasion I have a piece whose glaze has not entirely covered the surface. I pull these items to the side and repaint clear glaze over the uneven surfaces. They will then be added to the next high temperature firing. Yes, that means a third firing!


In the photos below you can see the before and after of a group of pieces some of which are being fired the second time and others their third. The glaze that will become clear and glossy is opaque white before firing so all of the color is masqued at this point. On the left the pieces with a bit of color showing are the pieces that are being re-fired (the third firing) to correct the glazes.


When I began working in ceramics I hadn't understood that I could re-fire to correct minor flaws. Re-firing allows me to use almost every ceramic piece that I make while keeping a high level of craft quality. Though on a very rare occasion a piece will crack in the kiln, and no amount of re-firing will miraculously make the crack heal itself!


One of my favorite parts of working with ceramics is opening the kiln after a high firing. It makes sense after all of the work of building each piece, loading the kiln, waiting through the bisque firing, unloading all of the pieces, hand painting all of the glazes, reloading the kiln, and waiting again while the kiln fires it all for a second (or third) time. What a thrill to finally open the kiln lid and see all of that work come to life, full of color with a glossy shine.