Learning is not always glamorous insight! | Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

Learning is not always glamorous insight!

By Jenifer Wightman


To be honest, I never intended to do anything with clay before this residency. 

Clay particles are so small and so tightly packed that it prohibits microbial movement and would block colonial expansion of my microbes in my mud paintings. But there-in lies the playfulness! I decided to make clay blocks (wet and kilned) to inhibit microbial passage!

I collected and cleaned mud from 3 sites: gopher mounds (black), river bed (red), riverbed (yellow). Then I rolled them out

Cut them into 2" squares. 

Placed them in a milk crate (see how they are drying unevenly, despite daily rotation by side and relative position)

Covered them with cookie rack (and put on weights to keep from warping).

Air dried results (all the black tiles cracked).

The 3 black, 3 yellow, 1 red tiles (above image) were put into the kiln.

Placed the kiln outside the artist barn under the eves. 

Programmed the kiln to cone 06 (very easy! It took forever to do this step bc I was so worried about messing up the kiln for the real ceramic artists! But it's easy! Gopher it!)

The program takes ~30 hours to heat up and cool down!

I didn't plan for that!

But in this context, who cares about planning!

Peak Temp! 1821 degrees F.


Doh! (kilned examples on the left, correspond to air dried samples seen on right)

Of course at 1800 degrees F, all the non-clay matter would burn off! They are all 'terra cotta' colored. 

Gah! Learning! It's not always glamorous!

I could have hypothesized! I could have googled! But I had to learn with my hands. 

And it was Great!


Special Thanks to Valerie - for helping me collect clay from a stream bed, setting up the kiln, and then just finding stuff while loving all the creatures scurrying about.