There are some things that I think need to be clarified, because they haven’t been spelled out in this thread, so I don’t know how many people know them.
DMS Fired Arts has 4 kilns today:
The large Paragon kiln that is used somewhat frequently to do bisque and cone 6 glaze firings. This kiln is capable of firing to cone 10.
The smaller Paragon kiln that sits on the floor. This kiln has been broken since at least April when I went on my first tour of DMS. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that we have the money to fix it, and the repair is only a phone call away. It’s August now. I believe this kiln can also Fire to cone 10. I’ll come back to why I think getting this kiln fixed is important.
The quite small Paragon kiln that is on a table back in the kiln area. This is a glass-only kiln. I don’t think anyone has used it in some time. I would love it if someone did some hot glass classes making use of and teaching the use of this kiln.
The small Cress kiln on the floor. No one has used this kiln in some time. Cress doesn’t list the model number on their website (I went looking for a manual a while back). When I asked how it worked, I was initially told that no one knew and later told that it makes use of witness cones. This kiln lacks a digital controller, which doesn’t make it junk by any stretch, but it does somewhat restrict what the kiln can be used for.
So, out of the four kilns in Fired Arts, we use the one big one for community firings, one has been broken for an unknown amount of time (but at least 4 months), one is for glass (which sadly no one has been doing lately), and one is undocumented and no one is making use of it because we don’t have the necessary training.
I would like to assert in no uncertain terms that the kiln firing is unquestionably an integral part of the creative process in ceramics. Honestly, it troubles me to hear the Fired Arts chair state that it’s not. Many different clay bodies vitrify at different temperatures. Some really interesting clays fire best at oddball cones like 8 or 03. Many different glazes require different firings. Some prefer a slow heating. Some prefer a slower cooling. Some glazes are vibrant at cone 5 and start to fade out at cone 6. Some don’t mature until cone 9. And, of course, most good porcelains fire to cone 10 (though there are exceptions).
Now, on kiln size. Having only small kilns is really probably wasteful. Having one really good small kiln is probably a great idea. Paragon makes the Janus 24, which has a 24"x22.5"x15" interior space. It fires to cone 10, does ceramic or glass, and comes with a digital controller. Yeah, it’s a little pricey, but it’s cheaper than a lot of tools at DMS. Anyone that wants to do a one-off unique firing could be accommodated by that device. And we could easily train people on how to use it.
All of this being said, I was told before I joined that I could do pretty much whatever firing I wanted as long as I could fill the kiln. Right now, with only our one largest kiln operational and available, that makes for a pretty significant hurdle. This is why I would very much like to see the smaller Paragon kiln fixed, and in a perfect world, I’d like to see DMS acquire a small, but very nice and modern (cone 10, digital controller) ceramics kiln.
Regardless, it makes absolutely zero sense for anyone to push back on kiln training. Any member should have the opportunity to be able to make use of any tool. Kilns are definitely different and special. A firing lasts a long time. There are scheduling issues. Someone irresponsible could really mess up a kiln. These are all, every last one, problems that can be solved. Are they daunting problems? Some of them are, sure. But just because something is challenging is no reason to avoid making an effort.