So I’m a potter now. Never really did it before. A bit on my art foundation, but none on my degree or since. I saw a tiny potter’s wheel online and thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen, so naturally got one. It sat mostly unused for 6 months because what’s the point if I can’t fire them. I don’t know any potters so no access to kilns, and even if I did, I wouldn’t trust my stuff not to ruin the kiln..
So time passed, then somehow I became aware of Microwave Kilns so the circle was complete.
To my shame, I get all my kit off Amazon, presumably there are London shops I can use, but I don’t know of any yet. My first wheel cost £20, and was like this: it’s USB powered, which I found funny, but it turned out that it didn’t have enough oomph to keep spinning when you apply pressure to the clay. The first clay I used was ‘air drying’ terracotta-like – I gave it a go as I had it lying about. It was a bit old and slightly stiff, but it worked well enough to hook me.
I did a tiny amount of research and found out that people recommend wheels with at least 22000 rpm. So I got one that was mains powered, it cost £50, has a drip tray (the first wheel was REALLY messy), and can spin in both directions. And it’s blue! It was out of stock for ages, but the wait was worth it. While I waited, I found out all about microwave kilns (MWK). Youtube is a wonderful thing. You can use them for pottery, fusing glass, and I think enameling.
As a not-potter, I love my MWK, but I have never used a proper kiln. You have no control over it, there is no temperature setting; you get what you get. They seem to come in 3 sizes. In mine, the maximum height inside is 45mm. I think the size affects the speed it comes to temperature, and basically, you need to heat in small increments until you know what your kiln and microwave combo does. It came with no instructions so it’s trial and error to start with. As far as I worked out, they all seem to be made in the same factory in China, so branded or not branded they are all the same. There is some kind of magic that happens in the MWK, all the little wiggly energy waves get trapped inside and heat up the interior. There is no way of knowing for sure (as in I have never put firing cones in it) but I think mine gets up to about 1000°C.
I mostly use a white stoneware clay I got from Amazon (links below), but keen to try out porceline.
My microwave is 800w. Here’s my complicated firing schedule:
- Bisque firing: 15 minutes, check it, 15 more minutes. Boom.
Listen carefully for the first minute or so. If a pots gonna pop, this is when and you will hear it!
- Glaze firing: 15 minutes, check, 17 minutes. Done.
Basically, when glazing, I check after 30 mins or so then get the MWK out, onto a heat-resistant surface (cupcake tray) and open it up to see if I can see a good shine to the surface, if not, back in for a minute or so.
I knew nothing at all about glazing. One of the first videos I saw on tiny pottery used Mayco Stroke and Coat because these underglaze and glaze at the same time (learning all the way here). So I started with a range of Mayco Stroke and Coat colours, and to this I added a clear glaze, 2 crystals, and a cobblestone. I want to get a crackle and a turquoise, maybe some sort of flux. That will do me for a while as I only use a tiny amount each time!
Mains Powered Wheel
Stroke & Coat