The importance of Observation (and recording)
Observing what you, or the kiln, is doing whether you are using a cartoon, or a schedule obtained from elsewhere – including the kiln manufacturer – means that you will learn much more quickly as you progress. You will be able to alter things as you go. This applies to all stages of the piece from design to removing the piece from the kiln.
Once you have made your design – whether as a drawing or a mock-up – look at it. Really look at it. Look at it from a distance, climb a ladder if you can’t pin it on a wall and look down on it. Look at it from the sides so you have an oblique angle view. Turn it upside down to confuse your expectations and so see what is really there. Look at it, using a mirror to see if it still looks good. Make the alterations you need as you go along to get the look you want and then repeat the process until you are happy.
Observe how you have put the piece together. Do the pieces fit?
Is everything in the right place? Are the colours right? Does it match your vision – symmetrical or asymmetrical? Do these things as you progress, so you become aware of the process and its rhythm.
Once you have determined your schedule, you cannot just leave the piece. If you are new to fusing, you need to observe the stages of firings to begin to understand what is happening to the glass at various temperatures and rates of advance. You would not put a cake into the oven and leave it without checking on it from time to time. Why would you fail to observe a much more expensive process?
Even when you are experienced - observation of new layups, new processes and anything you haven’t done several times before - you need to know how things are progressing during the firing.
Observing a firing is relatively simple. You need to check on two things:
· Check for a too rapid rate of advance. Peek into the kiln at around 540C to see if the piece is still whole. If not, you can abort the firing and progress to fixing or move on to another project.
· Check to see when the desired shape has been achieved. Peeking to see if the slump is complete or needs more time is important to getting the shape right. Peek to determine if the tack fuse has been achieved. When it has, advance to the next segment to avoid over firing. If it hasn’t, add time to the schedule to get it right.
It is not enough to simply observe. You need to record what you intended and the results you achieved. That includes what you did to get things right as well as wrong. What did you do to correct elements? These are all things that you will need to refer to in the future.
The key to rapid learning is observation and recording what you see.