Project: Art for the Heart

Phase 5:  Hearts on Fire… Into the Kiln

1830° is too hot to cook James and Shirley’s peanut butter cookies, but it is the perfect temperature for firing our glazed hearts.

It takes an entire day of carefully orchestrated adjustments to bring the kiln up to that temperature.  By the end, a view through a peephole reveals an orange glow reminiscent of the surface of the sun.  It then takes another two days to cool so the pieces inside can be removed.  Kristine, our Clay/Ceramic Arts instructor says, “It’s like Christmas!” We practically hover around the kiln, checking to see if the temperature has cooled enough to open the lid by another glorious few inches.  If we open it too quickly, the fired glaze, which is like glass fused to the clay, may crack and chip.  If we open it too slowly… we may die of anticipation.

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We know that the pieces will be fantastic, but because the glaze is so chalky looking, the final image is like a secret.

Before going into the kiln, each heart is covered with a clear glaze, which goes on blue.  This makes the hearts almost completely anonymous. It’s terrifying, really.  After watching everyone who participated in the workshops put such time and attention into their hearts, to then cover them up with 2 layers of BLUE was sometimes difficult.  Though it’s the same clear glaze we always use, I repeatedly checked the label on the jug to make sure it said “clear.”  130204_AFTH_before after clear glaze_web

The hearts have gone into the kiln. When it cools, we’ll remove them to see the vibrant color of the formerly chalky glaze, and awesome art of the artists who glazed them.

Project: Art for the Heart

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Putting the pieces together is difficult when your partnership doesn’t yet have partners.  We knew we wanted to work with Mercy Medical Center, but we didn’t have any contacts there.  Our good friends Monika Modest and Melissa Kelly-Ortega came to our rescue, providing awesome contacts.  Now we’re collaborating!

We wanted to work with American Heart Association, but they no longer have a local chapter.  It was important to keep the funds we raise local, so we’re working with our new partner– Mercy Medical Center– to identify a great organization to use our funds– promoting and advocating for healthy hearts, and supporting people making heart-healthy changes.  Now, on to the workshops!

This is a link to the poster, if you’d like to print or share it:  Art for the Heart 2013 poster 02

Project: Art for the Heart

PHASE 1: Preparing Clay Hearts…

Pounding, rolling, slabbing.  Cutting, smoothing, drying.  In late November 2012, the artists of the Enrichment Center began preparing clay hearts for a project to promote health and wellness in the New Year.

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Artist Denise Saelee carefully smoothing clay hearts for the Enrichment Center’s collaborative project Art for the Heart. December 2012.


Artist Richard Chavez cutting hearts from clay in preparation for the Enrichment Center’s collaborative project Art for the Heart. December 2012.

Sadly, most of us have lost someone we care about to a heart-related illness.  The New Year is the natural time for reflection and making changes for a better year.  Health and wellness generally top the list of areas where we focus those changes.  The artists and staff of the Enrichment Center, like everyone else, recognize the changes we could make to promote our own heart health.  We also recognize the therapeutic qualities of the arts, and thought it was about time to make our own collaboration with the local health community.

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These hearts have been dried and stacked, waiting to be loaded into the kiln for firing to bisque– the stage when clay can be glazed. December 2012.

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Clay hearts drying on shelves in the EC kiln room. Hearts on the top shelf are dry enough to fire, while hearts on the lower shelves are still too wet. Another week and they’ll all be ready. December 2012.

The artists worked throughout December to make hundreds of clay hearts for the Art for the Heart project.  People are invited to glaze a heart for a $10 donation, with proceeds going to a local organization which promotes heart-health, and assists people with making healthy changes.  As part of glazing their heart, participants will be encouraged to dedicate their heart to something meaningful– a loved one lost to heart disease, a personal commitment to change unhealthy habits, or some other goal that will improve their health and well-being.

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The first batch of clay hearts for the Enrichment Center’s collaborative project Art for the Heart. The kiln was fired the day before. Once we were sure we wouldn’t burn our faces off while opening it, the lid was propped open to allow them to cool.

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Clay hearts sitting on the edge of the kiln during unpacking.

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Over 300 hearts, just unpacked from the kiln after firing to bisque. They’re ready for glazing during the Enrichment Center’s collaborative Art for the Heart project. January 2013.

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This is just a sample of the clay hearts we’re offering for glazing to raise money for heart-health and a healthy New Year, with our collaborative Art for the Heart project. January 2013.

The first batch of over 300 dried clay hearts was fired to bisque in the kiln this week, and are now ready for glazing.  Though clients used a general size template, each heart is different.  Since we have sooooo many, there should be no lack of choices– a heart for everyone.

Contact the Enrichment Center for more information, and to sign up for a glazing workshop. Art for the Heart!