In the Art Room

Kiln Nightmare Update: Facts and Theories

 PhotoGrid_1428067578224I feel like the mom who, in a search of solidarity, posted a statement about her child not sleeping through the night, and in return received a lot of unsolicited advice and responses about what she was doing wrong.

Yesterday I posted a pic of a kiln disaster. It happens. Maybe not to everyone, and good for you, but nonetheless, it happens to the best of us. I imagine it happens to the worst of us as well. Well, my Facebook page has been blowing up with advice and suggestions, and while I know your intentions are good, I can’t help but think you all believe me to be incompetent. I know, I know, that wasn’t your intention, but still…

The truth is, we can sit here and debate all day and night about what went wrong, but ultimately, we will never know. Why? Because we cannot replicate the conditions and test our theories. And there are a lot of theories. Before we look at my theories, let’s take a look at some facts:

Fact 1: 10 out of 26 bobbleheads survived in their entirety.

Fact 2: One of the bobbleheads that did not survive was my own sample.

Fact 3: All of the heads survived.

Fact 4: We have had problems with our electric kiln’s programming in the past, resulting in misfiring.

I have developed a few theories based on my experience and what I know about this particular situation.

Theory 1: The clay pieces were not dry enough.

This is my leading theory for what went wrong. I give my thicker pieces about two weeks to dry out, sometimes more. I don’t allow my students to make their pieces any thicker than two fingers (their fingers). I check the thickness of all pieces while they’re working. With thin slab pieces, I give them about a week. I’ve been doing this for years, and I haven’t had any problems. Except for this one time. So what makes this time different? I think it was where I let the pieces dry. Usually, all finished clay pieces are placed on shelves in the kiln room to dry. This time around, I left them in my classroom. Not only did I leave them in my classroom to dry, I left them in a plastic container. A plastic container with no lid, but a plastic container nonetheless. While the container was open and the pieces exposed to the air, I suspect that the container hindered air flow and didn’t allow the bottoms to dry thoroughly. I never do this, but this time I did. Why? Because the shelves in the kiln room were full? Because I didn’t feel like hauling them upstairs to the kiln room? Because I forgot about them? All of the above? I don’t know. If I could go back and ask myself, I would.

Theory 2: The kiln misfired.

This has happened in the past. Our kiln is electric and is preprogrammed. We have had the programs go wonky before and fire all elements at once and too quickly. I have had to reprogram the kiln before. I am aware that our kiln misfiring is always a possibility, and yet, when I fired the kiln that day, I did not check the program first. I should have, but I was in a hurry. I’m at this school one day a week, I had a lot to do that day, and I wanted to get the pieces in the kiln and fired. I was rushed. I was careless. I should have checked. On that particular day, I only stayed long enough to hear the kiln fire up and to take note of the lights to tell me it was firing. My memory is telling me that had I taken the time to really notice the lights, I would have seen that all three lights were lit, meaning all three elements were firing. I am now convinced that this is what happened and while it may not have caused the disaster, it certainly contributed to it. My visual memory has me seeing three lights. Maybe it’s lying to me. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll be reviewing the programs when I get back there next week.

Theory 3: Student error.

It’s possible they overworked the clay, creating small air bubbles. It’s possible they accidentally sealed up the bottom of their pinch pots. It’s possible, but not very likely, in my opinion.

I’ll never know what actually happened. I know that I made a couple of poor decisions that I don’t normally make that most likely contributed to the disaster. I made a couple of mistakes, and I am well aware of what they were. It can happen to anyone. Let’s move on now, okay?

For those of you wondering, my students took it pretty well. They were a little bummed at first, but I think it helped that all of the heads survived. The bodies are pretty easy to make, so I plan to remake the pinch pot bodies myself and have my students add the finishing touches (feet, details, textures). They were really cool about it. I’ll be sure to post a pic of the finished pieces.

Until then, thank you for your comments and advice, but really guys, I got this.

In the Art Room

“I don’t have time to make art.”


Okay, let’s back up for a minute. Last November I made some confessions, one of which was, “I haven’t made art for myself since college.” Then I went on to whine and complain about how I don’t have any time and blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah. I received some support, but one individual’s comment really struck me:

NO excuses!!! You have to make time to make art, or you’re no longer an artist. I have been teaching elementary art for 24 years and I have always made art!…

After reading that, I was all, “F* you, Bob. You don’t know me. Who are you to say that to me?” Slow down. Without going into the debate of whether or not art teachers need to be artists, let’s focus on the other part of his comment, the time part. Here I am thinking, “I don’t have time for art anymore,” but the reality is, I do. I just need to change my idea of what art is (and dear god, please don’t anyone try to define what art is or what real art, or good art is to me in the comments. I heard enough of that elitist nonsense in grad school).

The thing is, I’ve always thought of art as something grand and meaningful. Something you would be proud to display on your wall, or a relative’s wall, or even, a stranger’s wall. This idea of art, most assuredly an idea implanted during my college days, has held me back. I don’t have time to paint a large scale oil painting, or the supplies for real printmaking (think metal plates and acid baths), or the space to set up my wheel and kiln, therefore, I do not have time to make art. I am no longer an artist.

Like many of us, creativity has always been a necessary outlet in my life. If I’m not able to create, in some manner or another, then I tend to lose my shit. True story. Creating centers me, calms me, and balances me. Creating is my therapy, as it is for many of us. Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated because I “just don’t have the time to create.” My anxiety increases, my stress levels skyrocket, and my emotions bounce all over the place. It’s not pretty. Then, somewhere (I wish I could remember where), I stumbled upon a book, Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to Be Creative No Matter How Busy You Are by Danny Gregory. I literally received it yesterday (although it feels like I ordered it months ago). Not 15 pages into it, I had an epiphany. You see, I have had time for art. I have been creating art. It’s just, I haven’t been creating “Art,” with a capital ‘A’. In his book, or more specifically, on pages 14-15, Danny G. examines the idea of Art vs. art. In short, “Art” is for the pretentious, and “art” is the stuff we should be doing everyday, the doodles, the sketches, the cartoons.

Long story short (“Too late!”*), Danny G. presents a challenge to commit to doing something creative every day, for 30 days. It can be something as simple as drawing your breakfast. Well, Danny G., challenge accepted.

So here’s the deal. I’m on instagram now. You can find me by clicking on that little icon under my profile picture at the top of this page, or just follow this link: athglitter. I’m going to be posting pictures of my 30 day challenge, and if you want to join me, please do. Make sure you tag me in your post, @athglitter, and include the hashtags #artbeforebreakfast and #athglitter. Let’s encourage each other to  create!

Are you in?

* I’m a HUGE Clue fan. I’ve seen it a gazillion times. Well, at least half a gazillion, and it’s probably the only movie that I actually know any quotes from. That and maybe Spaceballs (“They’ve gone plaid!”). Anyway, if you know the movie, you get this reference. If you don’t, then go watch it, and then you’ll get it.

In the Art Room

Small Talk

Can you believe this weather we’re having?

I know, I can’t get over all this cold temps/snow/rain/sun/crippling fog.

And what about all of these snow days/assemblies/field trips?

Right? They’re really messing with my projects/assessments/SOL review/planning time.

Man, the kids are really squirrely/off-the wall/on-task lately. It’s so weird.

Thank goodness there’s only two more days/weeks/months until Friday/vacation/the last day of school.

You’re telling me. Well, I gotta go. Catch you later/tomorrow/next week.

We’ve been having a lot of snow days and delays. I’m totally off. I can’t get back into the swing of things. I’m SOOOOO ready for Spring. Let’s make that happen.

In the Art Room

Nominations Open for AOE’s 2014 Blogs of the Year

Yeah, you read that right, blogs of the year. The Art of Education has changed things up this year and has introduced four categories for Blog of the Year. I love the change. The four categories are Best Elementary Art Ed Blog, Best Secondary Art Ed Blog, Best Rising Star Art Ed Blog, and Best Wild Card Blog (ahem).

There’s a few new perks this year for any of the top three winners, and all finalists get badges to display on their blogs.


Nominations are open until 5 pm CST on Thursday, January 15th, 2015. Be aware, nominating works differently this year. Instead of leaving you nom in the comments section, you have to actually click a button for each category in order to leave your nomination. You can nominate as many blogs as you wish. So go ahead, head on over and cast your nominations for Best Art Ed blogs of 2014.

In the Art Room

Happy New Year: A 2014 Summary

I just returned from a lovely visit with family. 12 days, 1,500 miles, 7 beds, 4 houses, 3 Christmases and blah blah blah. We spent some time in the mountains with no internet and no cell coverage, and it was wonderful. We decorated the tree, sat around the wood stove, and baked cookies. We watched Christmas movies, crafted and played outside in the snow. We wrapped presents, drank hot cocoa, played games, and then we unwrapped presents. We ate great food, too much food, played some more games, and went four-wheeling through the woods. Good times were had.

Now I’m back home, and we uneventfully rang in the new year with delivery pizza and the messiest house this side of the Mason-Dixon line. In true post-Christmas fashion, I rearranged and reorganized parts of the house in order to make room for the gifts our family bestowed upon us. And I missed watching the ball drop by four minutes. The tree is still up, the laundry is unwashed, and our bags are still packed, but there are a few more days left to this vacation, and I’m soaking up every last minute of it.

 2014 was a good year for Art Teachers Hate Glitter. I launched my new website (you updated your blog roll, right?), was nominated for and was a finalist for The Art of Education’s Blog of the Year, and I wrote a few posts as well. In true end of the year (calendar, not school) style, I present to you a summary of ATHG’s greatest hits of 2014, albeit a few days late.

Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of 2014

Confessions of An Elementary Art Teacher

#tbt: The Beginning of the Year vs. The End of the Year

Even Art Teachers Feel Uncool. (We’re Not, but We Fell It Sometimes)

Using A Capsule Wardrobe

Lately- Things Teachers Say

Top 5 Most Commented On Posts of 2014

Confessions of An Elementary Art Teacher

Humor. It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses. Mostly It’s Not.

Today’s Colors

Even Art Teachers Feel Uncool. (We’re Not, but We Fell It Sometimes)

Can I See Your ID?

Top 7 Most Popular and/or Controversial ATHG Facebook Posts of 2014

ATHG Facebook 1ATHG Facebook 5ATHG Facebook 4ATHG Facebook 7 ATHG Facebook 3 ATHG Facebook 6 ATHG Facebook 82014 has been a swell year. Here’s to another 365 days of ruffling feathers.