It was a black November day…the day before Thanksgiving. Sandy and I had already planned out the glass firings for the next few weeks. We were excited after having a very good day under the Banyan with people showing a real interest in some of our new work…and actually buying I might add. In the morning of that infamous day that will go down in Art-to-Harmony history, thing were cheery. Our plan for that day was to do “drop pots” using glass scraps that we had stockpiled. In the “drop pot” method, we stack pieces of glass of the color combinations we want into a terra cotta flower pot that we drilled extra holes into the bottom. We then place the loaded pot on ceramic rods to suspend the pot over the kiln shelf intended to collect the molten glass as it pours out the bottom of the pot. It is important that things be level. The kiln shelf needs to be level so that the molten glass won’t just pour off the shelf ruining the bottom of the kiln. I used my trusty level and got the shelves level enough…North-South and East-West. I say “shelves” because we were doing two drop pots…one was Sandy’s glass selection, and one was mine. We had two half-kiln shelves for the job.

Well, like I said, I leveled the shelves quite well. Next thing I did was to make sure the pots sat level on the suspending rods. I took care of that but remembered that I needed to confirm that the pots are centered above their respective shelves…which they were…and that the holes on the bottom of each pot weren’t obstructed by the suspending rods. To check that, I use a mirror…actually Sandy’s makeup mirror…to slide under each suspended pot to check the holes. I did Sandy’s pot first and adjusted it so the holes cleared the rods, then my pot. Now, because I moved the pots, I had to re-level them so the glass would flow evenly through the holes. “Whew!!” I thought… “Now we are good to go.”

Sandy normally double checks my kiln work but she was busy getting ready for an appointment…so she didn’t. I closed up the kiln…set it to go full blast to 1600 degrees…and left the studio to do something else. A short while later I went back to see how it was progressing…”Oh @#&%*@#!!!”…a horrible smell…black smoke seeping from the kiln. I rushed over to the controller…it was at 865 degrees and rising. I shut off the power, opened windows and doors to the outside, and raised the kiln lid…black toxic smelling smoke billowed out…not good, definitely not good. As I looked inside, there was Sandy’s mirror under my drop pot…plastic frame all melted, bubbling, and fuming. The inside of the kiln was black from the plastic fumes and smoke. Smoke poured out of the studio windows and doors…what EVER was I going to say to Sandy?? The song “American Pie” went through my head…the fumes I guess…so did a Lucile Ball skit. She was always doing lame brain things that she had to explain to Ricky. He would go off in Spanish for a minute, but forgive her…so I got my courage up and went to find Sandy.

She was in the shower, singing a happy tune…so I went into the bathroom with a contrite and sad face. “What’s the matter?” she asked. “Honey, I just destroyed the kiln!!” Well, she let out a scream followed by choice words in a language that I totally understood. But, after a few minutes, she calmed down. She could see how upset about it I was…besides, she’s been wanting a new kiln anyway.  I’m proud of her…she took a glass half full attitude, plus she didn’t kill me.

I was bummed. To get a new kiln would take a few months, not to mention the thousands of dollars in cost for a stupid mistake. All our glass firing plans had to go on indefinite hold.

On Thanksgiving, we had some of our dear friends over for dinner. Lynette P had heard from Sandy about our “disaster” and wanted to see the ruined kiln. “Oh…” she said, “it’s not so bad. I’m sure you can just clean that all off.” She’s such a positive person. She rubbed her finger on the inside of the kiln lid, and said “See??” Her finger was black. “It just rubs off!” From her lips to God’s ears I thought. I spent the next week scrubbing… and sanding… and vacuuming… over and over…Well, it did look better, but not like it did before. There was still a grey color all inside. I felt I did all I could and decided to turn it on and bring it to 1200 degrees. As the temperature rose, I could smell the plastic fumes again, and aired out the studio. I opened the lid several times to let the fumes inside escape.

The next day, after it had fully heated up and cooled back down, I opened it up and the grey was gone…it was normal looking again…slight smell, but looked good. The real test would be how glass would do in it…would it end up discolored and ruined. I put some in…cranked it up to 1500 degrees… came out just fine!! “Honey…the kiln lives!!” Thank you Lynette.

I wish I had taken some pictures of the mess, but I didn’t think of it. Here’s a picture of Sandy’s mirror. Plastic is all gone but I can still use it to check drop pot positioning. Also a picture of the kiln interior…looks perfectly normal…and it works, so it is. We are back on line. I am no longer in the dog house…a Thanksgiving gift.