One element

The best way to make time stand still for a potter is to have them wait for parts for their kiln. My kiln is like a giant toaster oven, if you wanted to heat your toast to 1200°C. It has several coiled wire elements running around the inside that turn orange when turned on. My kiln is an old school non-computerized Paragon, so the temperature is more of an estimate than exact as you see on a toaster oven, but I can control how hot it becomes by using the low/medium/high knobs. When one of those glowing orange elements stops working, I can’t heat to my target temperature at the correct rate, and my glazes are no longer predictable. I can hope for the best and use witness cones, but I’m not confident in the guesswork. When an element goes, I’m stuck. This week, I learned the hard lesson that replacement elements aren’t regularly sold by local shops. Every kiln make and model needs a different type of element, and stores might keep the popular ones on hand. Should they run out or, like me, you need an element for a rarer kiln model, the only answer is to order from afar. I am confident that I can install it once it gets here with a needle nose plier and a screwdriver now that I’ve successfully removed the broken element without electrocuting myself. I had no idea I could manage, but I’ve learned that to indulge in ceramics is to never stop learning, whether it’s creating a new form, glaze chemistry, or figuring out how to install an element. I’m waiting for the mail to bring me parts from shores far south. I’ve ordered an extra to have as backup for next time. Until the lovely people at my local ceramics supply call me, I’ll thank my lucky stars that this didn’t happen right before a large wholesale order was due, or before a craft show. -Cara