THE BASIC FLOW
Every class, you make pots. By class 2, the pots from week one will be stiff like leather and dry enough to trim and sign. At that stage, we call them leather hard. When those pots are fully dry, they are called greenware and they are ready for the bisque firing, which takes 9 hours and goes to 1900º F . After that, your pots are called “bisqueware.” Prior to the bisque firing, pots will dissolve in water. After the bisque, they will not dissolve. Now your bisqueware is ready to glaze. Then they are fired a second time in the glaze firing which reaches 2400º F. That firing takes 18 hours to heat up and 18 hours to cool down. Each week, you make new pots, trim pots from the previous week, and glaze your bisqueware. After the glaze firing, your porcelain pottery is vitrified, non-porous, food-safe, and will last thousands of years. It can be safely used in a dishwasher, microwave, and oven.
THE FLOW FOR YOU
The basic flow for new students: 1: Learn the basics and make some pots. Class 2 through 7: Trim pots from the week before and make more pots. Keep learning. Week six is usually when you get your first glazing instruction, but we will time this according to the production and firing cycle at that moment. You are in the beginner glazing group so read about it. Your instructor will work closely with you. During weeks 6 through 8 you get priority use of the glaze room. On week 8, if you are not returning you will only glaze. If you are returning next term, you can make more pots on week eight.
Flow for continuing students: As part of a community of potters that produces hundreds of pots a week, I cannot emphasize enough the need to maintain the flow of pots through the studio. They are like cars on an assembly line. Each week you need to move ALL your pots along to the next stage. Trim what you threw last week, glaze whatever was bisqued, and take home any finished work. Otherwise, we have a conveyor belt breakdown, and no one’s work can move forward. We run out of shelf space and production grinds to a halt. So each week you must trim, glaze and take home finished work. Store your bisque ware in your car or at home if you choose not to glaze so you don’t jam up the studio. Note that the flow of work is different for you than for new students. New students don’t have anything to glaze for the first five weeks of the term. You do. Therefore you should aggressively glaze during the first five weeks while new students are upstairs learning to throw. During the last three weeks your access to the glaze room may be limited because new students and ending students get priority for glazing time and kiln space. If your bisqueware is piling up at Fireborn, please store it in your car, or at home. Class 8 is the last class of the term, so if you are not returning you will only trim and glaze. If you are returning next term, you can make more pots during week eight.
WEEK SEVEN AND EIGHT BEST PRACTICES
All new students need to glaze on weeks seven and eight so they get feedback ASAP. All ending students need to glaze because this is their last chance to do so. They are not permitted to return next term to finish up trimming or glazing. Instructors will be in the glaze room helping people glaze. All returning students should stay out of the glaze room. They will have plenty of time in the beginning of next term.
ENDING YOUR TERM
Pots thrown during week six and trimmed on week seven MIGHT be a ready to glaze on week 8… if the where dry enough to be bisqued. Pots thrown during week 7 can be trimmed on week 8. Two weeks after your term ends you may pick up your bisque ware and store it at home until you take another class.
All pots you glazed will be fired as soon as the kiln is full. We will email you about picking them up, and also post the information on our website. Click here to see that page.
Sadly, after every term, we discard dozens of unclaimed pots. It pains us to discard pots, but space is limited. Any leather hard pots you left on the shelves will be discarded the day the term ends. We will hold your bisque for 30 days after your term ends. After you are notified that a glaze firing has happened you will have 30 days to get those pots. However we suggest you get them promptly. Pots without legible signatures, dates and class symbols are at particular risk of being discarded.
Classes fill months in advance. There is a $40 discount if you roll-over into the next term.
There is information here that you need to know and which may not be mentioned in class.
EXTEND YOUR KNOWLEDGE – BLOG PAGES and VIDEOS
The world of ceramics you are exploring at Fireborn may be new to you but it is only a tiny part of a ceramics. Pots have been serving utilitarian and ceremonial functions since the dawn of humans. Please enrich your understanding of the rich history of ceramics, the variety of techniques used to produce pottery, its cultural significance and its beauty. Fireborn has a curated BLOG that is a must for anyone who is thirsty for knowledge. It is full of videos and is a major part of our website. VISIT OUR BLOG
SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED TO BRING
Please supply your own towel and a medium to large clean-up sponge. Only your clay is stored at Fireborn. Store your tools and bucket, and any bisqueware you don’t want to glaze immediatly in your car or at home and remember to bring them to class. Keep your clay shelf organized. There is no extra space at Fireborn. Evening classes, please be cleaned up and ready to walk out the door at 9:30. Morning classes, please depart by 12:30 sharp.
SIGNING YOUR WORK
We try very hard to keep track of your pots so you can find them, glaze them, and efficiently move them through the studio production cycle. Also, at the end of each term, we clear off all the bisque-ware shelves and move pots to a special area for your retrieval. Work in process and finished glaze ware needs to be readily identifiable by Fireborn staff so they can be sorted, stored and the owners contacted. This is what works for us: • Legible writing • Your last name or initials as they appear on your registration for class. Nick-names, alt-names, and aliases are useless to us. • Your class symbol • The date you threw or trimmed your pots. Pots with signing issues will be placed in the “Signing Issue” areas, and as they age, if unclaimed, they will eventually be discarded.
WAXINGWax the bottom and up a full 1/4 inch from the bottom of the pot. If your pot has a lid, see your instructor for special instructions on waxing lids. Clean your brush well, close the wax jar and change the water when you are done. If you spill wax, change the paper on the workbench. Use your brush for applying wax and clean it well in hot water. Use the red wax on the bottom of your pots. The yellow wax is for lids but don’t use it without getting special instructions.
A good glaze job will improve any pot. A bad glaze job will ruin even the most beautiful creation. Glazing is critical to your success, so do a good job glazing and sponging. After glazing, allow 10 to 15 minutes to clean up. Wipe tables, bucket lids, and work surfaces well and leave a clean studio. Students who have been at Fireborn for less than a year are probably still in the beginner glazing group. Don’t ruin your pots or damage our kiln. READ THIS.
YOU ARE IN THE BEGINNER GLAZE GROUP
You are in the beginner glaze group unless indicated on the clipboard in the glaze room. Beginner glazers may not glaze unsupervised. READ THIS.
SIGN-UP AND WAITING LIST
Classes fill early and we usually have a waiting list. If you want to sign-up for next term, we suggest you do it four or more weeks in advance.
POTS YOU LEAVE BEHIND / UNCLAIMED POTS
We will keep you informed of firings and unclaimed pots both with emails and on our website. If you don’t collect your pots in a reasonable amount of time, they will be discarded. READ MORE.
Tuition includes 25 pounds of clay, and glaze. Additional clay may be purchased as needed. Please buy additional clay, if you need it, at the beginning of class. Clay purchases in the middle of class are disruptive. Clay sales are debit, credit, or check only – no cash. Another 25 pounds of clay may be purchased for $36. After that clay costs $50 for 25 pounds. The price increase covers the added expenses associated with high volume production. Classes are designed for learning. There are limits to the size of the work you produce and the amount of clay you can purchase. Fireborn’s classes are not intended for production throwing. If you are running a business you need to be doing that out of your own studio. Glaze is included in your tuition and clay fees.
SPECIAL PERSONAL TOOLS
We do not supply tools like hole punches, wiggly wires, calipers and throwing sticks, carving and sgraffito tools, rubber ribs, or silk sponges. Purchase them on line or in Carnegie at Ceramic Supply. Stock your very own personal tool box. SEE OUR SUGGESTIONS
RECLAIMING/RECYCLING YOUR CLAY
If you throw a pot you are not happy with you should reclaim the clay. Squash the clay onto the plaster bat so there are no sharp edges and put your initials on it. The fan may get turned on, so don’t let your clay get too dry. Bag your scrap and wedge it before using it again.
PARKING ISSUES AND FREE PARKING
MAINTAINING A NOTEBOOK OR SKETCHBOOK
Keeping track of where your pots are in the studio cycle and how you glazed your work is helpful. Some people photograph their pots after trimming and glazing. Some people sketch them. Some number them. Click here to see a sample journal entry. I suggest you maintain a notebook or sketchbook, which can be helpful for designing new work. You can buy one or look at this sample and print one. SKETCH BOOK
PRIME GLAZING TIMES
For new students prime time is weeks 6-8. For returning students prime time is weeks 1-5.
MAKING LARGE POTS
Large pots amplify. What I mean by this is, if you have exactly the same pot, but you make it bigger, it makes more of a statement, is bolder, and louder. If it was a bad pot when small, it will scream horrible if made large. Making large work is a fun challenge, but if you couldn’t make it beautiful as a small pot, you definitely won’t be able to make it beautiful as a large pot. Start small and work your way up. Beauty should be your goal, not size. More Details
HIGH VOLUME PRODUCTION AND SIZE LIMITS
We have practical limits (related to shelf height and storage space) which limit the size of work we can handle in our studio. There is a chart by the trim wheels showing those limits. Any oversized pots will be charged a handling fee of $20 (note, anything over our size limits if a good quality pot is quite valuable). We are not trying to make money on large pots, but we are trying to discourage you from making them. Please don’t take this personally. If you want to make lots of large work, you should find another facility. More Details
ILLEGIBLE AND SLOPPY SIGNATURES
Not only does this make your pots ugly, it vastly increases the likelihood that they will get lost among the hundreds of pots flowing through the studio at any given moment.
There are 25 videos, plus text, covering centering, throwing, trimming and glazing that we made expressly for Fireborn students and pertaining to our equipment and glazes. Go to our “Help Page” and WATCH THEM
We offer occasional Sunday workshops which we highly recommend for intermediate and advanced students. READ MORE
We offer a curated blog component on our website. The world of ceramics you are exploring at Fireborn may be new to you but it is a tiny part of a ceramics. Pots have been serving utilitarian and ceremonial functions since the dawn of humans. Please enrich your understanding of the rich history of ceramics, the variety of techniques used to produce pottery, its cultural significance and its beauty. Fireborn BLOG is a must for anyone who is thirsty for knowledge. It is full of videos and is a major part of our website. VISIT OUR BLOG
SATURDAY OPEN STUDIO
We offer open studio on Saturdays between noon and 4:00 p.m. It is a great way to hone your skills with extra practice. It depends on whether or not the studio is booked for other activities. Also you must be currently enrolled student. There is a nominal fee. Click to SIGN UP
We seldom cancel class. There will be class as regularly scheduled unless otherwise polsted right here . If the Pittsburgh Public Schools have a 2-hour delay or are closed, Fireborn MAY close or delay also. Schools sometimes close because of cold weather, but cold weather is not a sufficient reason for us to delay or close. Delays and closings for Fireborn will be posted here by 8:30 a.m. for morning classes and 4:30 p.m. for evening classes. We will reschedule if feasible. We probably won’t be notifying you by text or email. Click here for most recent posting of cancelations.