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1  POTTERY, CERAMICS, POLYMER CLAY / Pottery, Ceramics, etc: Discussion and Questions / Re: Any cheap alternatives to kilns? on: March 13, 2009 01:25:49 PM
As a ceramist with a home studio, I have a couple of suggestions:
DO NOT buy a kiln, either new or used, until you are sure that you want to commit to ceramics. They are expensive, usually require 220 power, and sometimes other structural improvements. You can't just buy one, bring it home in your car, and plug it in and start firing away. (There are some test kilns, in which one or two small pieces will fit, which can be used with household current.) When we bought our Skutt a couple of years ago, we had to have electrical work done, and the total for the work plus the kiln came to more than $6000. You may not have the same issues, but some always arise.  There is also the issue of kiln "furniture" (shelves and posts) and kiln wash, cones, and various other sundries. These can run you an additional $500 -$1000. My spouse and I are both potters, so we thought the investment prudent, and it has turned out to be so. BUT, we knew we loved ceramics, so we were ready to commit.
The suggestion to take a class first is excellent - if fact, taking several before you set up at home will pay dividends, if you pay attention to what is done not only in class, but out of class, i.e. firing of kilns, mixing glazes, storing clay, etc. Depending on where you live, an art center with pro potters will be the best, these folks know what works, obviously.
I must disagree that an electric kiln is expensive to fire. Our Skutt will fire to cone 6 (2232 F) in about 10-12 hours. By firing overnight, when electricity is cheapest, it costs us about $3 to fire a kiln load.
Of course, this is just the raw electricity cost, the taxes and fees make it a bit more (maybe $5.)
I have gone on for too long, and this isn't meant to discourage you, but kilns, studios require somewhat of a hefty investment in both money and time.  In our current economy, those issues are best taken into account, no?
If you do decide that you love ceramics, and do set up at home, you will be amply rewarded. It is an amazing, and amazingly rewarding activity.
2  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Discussion and Questions / Re: Drawing/painting - is it a talent you're born with, or can it be learned? on: December 19, 2008 04:06:45 PM
May I suggest "Drawing on the Right side of the brain" a book by Betty Edwards? In it she explains why people think they cannot draw, why most of us draw like we are seven years old, and how to learn to see correctly in order to draw.  Seeing correctly is  a skill that can be learned, and by "seeing correctly", I mean seeing WHAT IS IN FRONT OF YOU, not what you THINK or BELEIVE you see in front of you. You see a chair in front of you, you want to draw it, but your knowledge and memory of "chairness" get in the way of an accurate rendering of what is really in front of your eyes. So you draw that, say four legs, a seat, a back with a nice splat perhaps, and it doesn't look anything like what is before you. This book will help you fix this problem.
There are a number of exercises and tools to help you overcome the belief that you could never draw, and a number of before and after examples from Edwards' students to show that anyone can learn to draw.
It's an excellent book.
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