For a while now I’ve been interested in trying out some pottery and making some small mugs or bowls and things like that. Just wanted to gauge any interest. If anyone had a kiln that would be ideal, pretty sure those can get expensive, but I could maybe buy a small pottery wheel to host. Not sure if a kiln would be allowed in the shop anyway. Thoughts?
This is a recurring suggestion (see Ceramics Area Proposal? for the discussion during my tenure). Two sticking points have persisted:
it would be cost-prohibitive to operate an electric kiln at our location, and a fuel-fired kiln has some complex ramifications with our lease. I think either option is technically do-able, but wouldn’t be as simple as a typical tool hosting agreement.
nobody has yet developed a fully-baked proposal for the concept, like how we’d arrange the floor space, how many members would be interested in using it, and who’d teach classes.
The board’s open to the idea for sure. We just need somebody (preferably several somebodies) interested and committed enough to drive a plan to execution. You wouldn’t even need to solve the kiln problem - there are some other shops in Austin that will fire customer ceramics for a small fee.
If you want to see a ceramics studio happen, I’d suggest gathering some other members to form a ceramics team to firm up a plan. Work with @EricP (or his delegate) on physical space stuff and @astc on classes. @valerie or I can help you with communications questions, like if you want to make a membership announcement or conduct a survey.
Thanks for the info! Should’ve figured its been thought about before. Perhaps when I have a bit more time I can spearhead and start to figure out a plan.
Here’s a quick informal poll to perhaps quantify some interest and see if it would be worth it – please vote if you see this!
- Yes, I’d use it or try it out!
- Yes, I’d like to see it happen but probably wouldn’t use it.
- No, we don’t need that
Also, anyone interested in helping plan/build a space or teach a class please chime in. For a new work area to be successful beyond a pilot phase, we need a group of knowledgable users willing to share their expertise with the rest of the membership.
I think we could have the projects fired off site. I think that has been the biggest sticking point.
People with ceramics experience: what would be need to have a functional ceramics area?
Agree on skipping the kiln for now.
Off the top of my head:
- electric wheel (is one enough, or do we want two to handle classes?)
- slab roller
- wedging table
- decorating wheels (banding wheels)
- small assortment of brushes and hand tools (expect heavy users to have their own)
- clay trap for the sink
- big buckets or small trash cans for recycling
- plenty of shelf space for drying
- nice to have: clay extruder (cross-functional project: making custom dies by hand or CNC)
There are some things we could get, but I’m not convinced we’d need or even use right off the bat
- ball mill (possible uses outside of ceramics)
- spray booth (ditto)
- clay mixer (helps with large-batch recycling; a mixer on a power drill is probably fine for a while)
- pug mill (reduces hand-wedging. could be an accessibility aid, but a wedging table is probably fine for a while)
molds for slip casting might be nice to have too, but no idea where to even start. Probably makes sense to let them accumulate organically or take requests as people start using the area.
I think that’s a great list – seems like you yourself have ceramics experience! If you’d have asked me, I would’ve said a wheel is good
Not trying to get ahead of the project or anything, but where in the shop would there be room for a ceramics area? The long term storage to the right of the craft loft stairs? Perhaps the offices next to the lounge? Not sure which would be best.
I guess there is also some room up in the craft loft itself-- its not being utilized to it’s potential. Would have to figure out a running water situation and cleanup.
I was a regular in the ceramics studio in high school, but that was the last time I made anything. Googling for equipment is bringing back memories
I’d want to keep a ceramics area near a sink, which narrows our options if we don’t want to do plumbing. One option would be to move wood turning and put ceramics there by the back windows. Another possibility would be putting it in the lounge area, but I’m not sure how I feel about that – it might be nice to have a breakroom space again after covid.
If it’s not near an existing sink, it’d have to go in one of the lofts (I don’t think we can cut the slab to plumb new drains). It doesn’t sound wise to put wet work where it can drip down on other people or machines.
My thought process is we should figure out what equipment we want, then how much space it’d need, then decide where to put it. It’s looking likely we’ll be embarking on a larger space planning and re-arrangement in the space later this year, so I’d like to see a ceramics proposal at least sketched out so we can include it in the process.
Is this a problem of size? Three-phase? Something else?
This is a surprising statement to me as Texas, in general, has really low electricity rates. And we have a “semiconductor” company right behind us who is almost certainly sucking down some serious juice.
Paragon makes some small 120V, single phase kilns that are quite good for small ceramics, lost-wax casting, etc. Yes, they need a 15A or 25A feed, but they don’t require industrial 3 phase along with all of the power factor correction horsehockey.
The last time ATXHS looked into hosting a kiln, it was determined that the electrical consumption would kick us up into the next (commercial) rate class, and therefore have a disproportionate impact on our overall electric bill.
I haven’t run the numbers myself, but it’s on my to-do list. I noticed there’s a wide array of size options, and some brands tout energy efficiency in their marketing. I’d like to pick a modern, moderately economical option (I’m thinking dual-media, cone 12, but smallish) and run the math on power needs for a plausible duty cycle and see what the actual impact would be on our electric bill. That said, I don’t think a kiln is necessary for day 1 of a ceramics work area.
Take this guy, for example: https://www.theceramicshop.com/product/15309/dm-1818he-kiln-12k-240v-1p/
The spec sheet for the 208V 3-phase version says it’s 21A flat-out, so it only needs a 30 amp breaker. That’s just #10 wiring; no big deal to install. I wouldn’t want to dump that much heat straight into an air conditioned shop; not sure how we’d manage that.
There’d still be a lot of logistics to work out (we’d probably need volunteer kiln operators to schedule and stack firings, etc, etc) if we figured out the infrastructure concerns.
I was thinking something more along the lines of:
Edit: Nope. That Paragon only gets to Cone 1. Something like this is required to go to Cone 6:
This runs off a NEMA 5-15R and shouldn’t generate so much heat that we have to worry about dumping it. This gets you a lot of the lower-fire ceramic needs (up to Cone 6–barely I think) as well as lost wax casting (for which you can also use a 3D printer and melt out the poly) which would be a prerequisite for centrifugal casting of metals which would get you to jewelrymaking and silver/goldsmithing.
But, yeah, you won’t be throwing 10 pounds of clay into a vase and firing it in that one.
There are enough options for kilning, I really think we should defer any investment until we have some people actually doing ceramics and we get a better feel for what kinds of things people want to do.
One big kiln is most power-efficient, if we can run it full. Several smaller kilns would give us flexibility to do different processes in parallel, but would be the least efficient way to process a lot of material if they’re all doing the same thing.
I have a hunch that ultimately we’d want to have a medium-biggish kiln with a handful of dedicated stewards to schedule firings for various processes and manage the loading/unloading logistics (like a school would do) and another small kiln for experimenting, but I wouldn’t want to make any decisions until we’ve shaken some bugs out and run some classes.
In the meantime, people can get their ware fired at Armadillo: https://www.armadilloclay.com/store/c170/Firing_Services.html