Gaia was my most ambitious project, ever. She was my homage to the divine feminine, a life-size hand-built sculpture of a woman’s torso.
I painstakingly and lovingly crafted her by interweaving textured and patterned strips of clay. She represented 6 months of work. 6 months of slow drying. 16 hours of “candling” (pre-heating) in my electric kiln. 16 hours of very, very slow bisque firing.
Gaia was also my biggest kiln disaster, ever.
I opened the kiln and saw an unrecognizable pile of rubble. Gaia blown to smithereens. Time slowed down, and I heard an ungodly scream. I think it was coming from my mouth. Reality takes on a surreal, otherworldly quality when you are in denial, yet unable to deny what is right in front of you.
Slowly, it began to sink in. I had plenty of time for it to sink in, sobbing hysterically as I removed the detritus, not only from the bottom of the kiln, but from every coil and thermocouple. My man–at my request, mind you—was snapping pictures to document the event.
Post-mortem analysis is a bitch.
I made Gaia using 75 pounds of clay, so she probably weighed about 50 pounds when I loaded her into the kiln. Okay, Mr. Man actually loaded her into the kiln. She was hollow, about 1-1/2 − 2” thick overall, and I put holes everywhere so air and water (aka steam) would not get trapped inside.
Apparently that was not enough.
For one thing, Gaia was quite zaftig, and I failed to take that into consideration. It would have been better if I had fired her on sand–think tiny ball bearings–so that she could shrink and move freely on the shelf.
There was also too much steam created and too few escape routes. I could have notched the edges for steam to escape, or lifted her off the shelf with wadding or stilts. I could have made more and larger holes throughout her body.
Live and learn. <deep breath>
Gaia was my biggest learning experience in ceramics, ever.
One day I’ll gather the courage to re-create her.
“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.”