My favorite hiding place, my workplace

artist at workI am an artist and make abstract, sculptural ceramics. You can see the result of what I make in another article, but here I want to show you where I make it.

There is a little building in the garden, which size fits me perfectly. It’s my atelier where nobody disturbs me and I can work quietly. And where I teach my students, so at times it’s not quiet at all!

In order to work properly, I do not necessarily need an own studio – several of my students use their kitchen table as well – but you can understand that I am very happy with my hideout. (Pictures of me are made by my friend © Jenny van Diggelen; the other pictures are mine © Hannie Mommers)

A workplace in the garden

Every child is an artist
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up
–Pablo Picasso

My biggest challenge: keeping the place tidy

workplace tidying up

For me it’s hard to keep a surface cleaned up. In some areas of my life I am a messy person. In the old days both my mother and my sister used to yell at me: “Clear out your stuff!”

A big advantage of having groups of students at times, is that I have to make sure they have room to work. So I use shoeboxes and small drawers that are labeled to keep overview.

ceramicist at work
Me in action, collecting stuff around me while I am working

students in my workplace
A group of students working hard and concentrated

This was so great, a blind visitor at my exhibition

blind seeing my work
“Seeing” the work by touching. She is not allowed to do this in a gallery or museum, but at my own exhibitions, of course she is.

Yearly I have an exhibition in my house and garden, together with 5 other artists. Last time a blind woman visited. She was so happy that I allowed her to touch my ceramics. Her husband next to her described the colors. There was a time she was not blind so she knows what the colors are.

Dirty business: Ceramics is a dirty profession. Your hands and your tools will get messy. Try to work as responsible as possible.

Hot tip: a deposit tank is necessary

environmental friendly
I do not want waste in the sink

If you can’t afford a deposit tank at the moment – like me – it’s just as easy to use 2 buckets. One for non-toxic stuff like clay, to rinse your tools and hands, and one for toxic waste like glazes and oxides. Don’t put your bare hands in the toxic bucket!

Actually I have 4 buckets. When 2 of them are full of water I switch them. The water in the buckets will evaporate and then you can spoon the remainder in a plastic bag. When I have a lot of that I bring it to the Environment Center.

buckets to clean up
I rinse my hands first in the left bucket and then I wash them with warm water

My biggest asset, an electric kiln

I have an electric, high voltage kiln. The highest temperature I can get is 1,300 degrees C
Ouch, what a mess on the table!

kiln lockI used to hire kiln space at a pottery nearby. When you just start as an artist, you might not have big sums of money to invest. And there always is the possibility you won’t like your artwork enough to continue and then you’re in trouble with all the tools you can’t use anymore.
(I have also made an article about using household stuff as tools for ceramics)

Another big advantage of hiring first is you learn what you like or don’t like in a kiln. You’ll be so much more prepared when you are going to buy one.

I love technical stuff, isn’t this lock beautiful?

Reflections on buying a kiln

  1. Do you want a top loader or a front loader?
    A top loader is cheaper, a front loader is better for your back
  2. Which energy source is the easiest accessible for you, gas or electricity?
    Some effects are not possible in an electric kiln, for example, you can’t regulate the oxygen inside
  3. What size do you need?
    Making big pieces doesn’t necessarily mean needing a big kiln. Mine is 100 liter, but I still make pieces of 1,5 meter high. They are made in parts and assembled afterwards
  4. Can you put the kiln outside your workplace?
    And if not, can you make an exhaust system?
  5. If it is electricity, do you have ordinary or high voltage power?
    If you won’t fire higher than 1,060 to 1,100 degrees C you don’t need a high voltage kiln.
    If you want to work with porcelain you do.
  6. Do you want a computer-regulated kiln?
  7. How big is the space you have available?

Do you have tips of your own concerning buying a kiln? Please share them here in the commentbox.

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