#firstworldartteacherproblems; I’ve got 99 Problems and my Kiln is one.

Let’s be honest – the kiln isn’t a problem.  It’s totally me. Ha.

4 years ago, I started teaching.  I landed a job with the ultimate ceramic set up.  A brand new, digital kiln with a build in ventilation system and the more than enough power in the breaker system installed.  I was in heaven. Hashtag-First-World-Art-Teacher-Problems.  Even after a few mishaps of learning the way of a kiln, it was fantastic.  Punch the buttons, hit start, walk away.  No cones. Three years of bliss.

Well, this year, I started at a new school in a new district with no kiln.  Not to say I didn’t have one but because the school was being renovated (aka completely rebuilt), but the workers had to move the kiln and when they did they dropped it (didn’t listen to our resident expert about how to move it properly) and busted it up. Base was cracked, middle was cracked. Cracked and broken. Bummer.

When we finally got it back, just before winter break, it was “fixed”.  I use quotations because I’m still testing it.  I went to plan out my 2nd half of the year to include firing clay and when I could test the improved kiln out. I learned then that it was electric but not digital.  It was completely manual.  That means cones.  Did I mention my last kiln didn’t require cones?

I was clueless.  Even after my ceramics class in college, clueless.

So, I sat down with the previous art teacher and had her map out the process with me.  Set the cone, set the timer, press the button and increase from low to medium to high every two hours.  Cone will fail or timer will run out.  Sounded simple enough.

Then came use of the hood vent which was different – I had to pull it down over the kiln – okay, I could do that.  But then I had to plug it in.  This is where we learned that the design of the room lacked an outlet for the hood.  Ha. What a bright start to my kiln testing.  So, of course, it was a waiting game until they came and did the electric work.

When the outlet was finally installed, I was ready to test my kiln.  Right?

There I am, setting the cone, putting in a couple pieces of dried clay to test, closing the lid, setting the latch and timer.  Turn hood on, press button.  Move dials to “low”, set alarms on my phone.  Wait.

Texted a couple colleagues to let them know what I was doing in case I burned the school down.  Afterall – broken, fixed and untested kiln being run by a cone-inexperienced teacher…what could go wrong?

Curious, I returned to the kiln every so often.  Nothing. Well, at least I hadn’t burned the school down. No heat, no movement of the timer, nothing. What was I doing wrong?  Went through the trouble shooting of Skutt and reset everything as directed, I mean what did I know – it could be that simple.

Closed lid, set cone, latch and timer.  Turned hood on, pressed button.  Moved dials, set new alarms.  Wait.

Texted previous teacher to see if there was something I was missing! I saw a bulb on the cone setter that obviously should be on because the kiln was running but it wasn’t on.  She confirmed I was right – there should be a light on. Yet, here I had done everything as instructed by her, the videos online and the manual.  No light. No heat. What was I doing wrong?!


Then it hit me.

Light bulb came on…or rather, I knew now how to get it to.

I took a quick walk to our custodian’s office and asked him where the fuse box that contained the breaker for Room 1322 was.  We have a million fuse boxes scattered throughout our newly renovated school.

Simple fix: They had flipped the breaker to “off” because we had gone so long without the kiln.

Breaker was flipped.

Light went on.

Alarms reset.

And now, let’s hope I don’t burn the school down.

04.02.14 15:04:26 Update: *Click* Cone failed successfully and our school is still standing!  The journey pays off. Hallelujah!




4 responses to “#firstworldartteacherproblems; I’ve got 99 Problems and my Kiln is one.

  1. LOL good luck! Kilns can be so tricky — especially when the success of student’s work is on the line. I hope you are able to get it up and running.

  2. Props!! My first year here in Mumbai our kiln looked like an old battle tank- I’m pretty sure I would have had to manually wire it to get it to work- I decided not to tackle it my first year and then our school decided to build a new 6 story ES campus in a new location in 8 months- so we moved, without a kiln…. It’s a bit sad for my kids but I must admit these small back of my mind worry you have so eloquently shared here is a prime reason I chose not to fight to get a brand new kiln to go along with figuring out our brand new building last year…. Looks like I’ll be around firing muuuch more next year in Shanghai, *fingers crossed* I”ll think of you when I fire up for the first time!

  3. Good luck, Amy! Let me know if you have questions because, believe me, I have experienced the things that allow me to the answer questions people don’t ever think they’d have.

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