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.

130211_AFTH_clear glaze 01_web

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

Phase 3:  “Glazing” is painting…

Technically, you’re painting a coating of silica-based fluid (glaze), which, when fired in the kiln, will fuse to the surface of the clay heart… now you know why we just refer to it as glazing.

From our first glazing workshop. Glazing is just painting. Harrison chose his heart, his colors, and his brushes. Photo by Melissa Kelly-Ortega

From our first glazing workshop. Glazing is just painting. Harrison chose his heart, his colors, and his brushes. Photo by Melissa Kelly-Ortega

When you spend as many hours as we do surrounded by art, making art, promoting art, talking about art, art becomes such a natural part of your speech and action, that you may forget the large number of people who may perceive art as being slightly foreign– a special skill, unique only to those gifted with a sense of creative genius.  Not so!!

When you ask people who feel that way to engage in artmaking, many of them may imagine that you are asking them to do something they aren’t qualified to do… like auto repair, networking the office computers, catering a wedding, or teaching high school math.

For this project, especially given the short time we have before it concludes, convincing people that they are fully qualified to participate has been important, and involved making a few assurances:

1. You don’t have to worry about your skills.  We will introduce you to the materials, how to use them, and be there to provide assistance and answer questions.

2. We’ve set it up so that it is only as complex as you want it to be.

3. It doesn’t matter how you paint the heart, as long as you paint the heart– whether you spend 2 hours perfecting every detail, or 2 minutes applying slapdash one-color coverage.

Answers to other questions people have had are:

  1. The funds we collect will be going to the Mercy Foundation to be used in the Cardiac Rehab department, to help people with heart disease who do not have a way to pay for their rehab.
  2. You should give yourself about 1 hour to select and glaze your heart.  Those who have come in expecting to do it in 30-45 minutes tend to run out of time.
  3. The glaze goes on looking very chalky, but firing reveals the vibrant color and glossy texture.
  4. Drop-ins are acceptable, but reservations are a good idea.  If you drop in, and there is no more space, you may have to wait.
  5. We do not have a credit card machine. We accept cash and checks.
  6. The cost is a $10 donation per heart.  We also have a few small hearts, which were designed to be glazed as a pair for $10, but which may be glazed individually for $5.

Fortunately, except in rare circumstances (usually involving a professional artist who is trying to become rich and famous, or doesn’t learn from his/her mistakes), there is no failure in art.  It is what it is.  Most artists will tell you that mistakes are gifts you give to yourself.  Making a mistake, you will either learn a valuable lesson—how not to do something, or you will learn something new—how to do something you didn’t intend to do… but will totally try again.

Glazing workshops:

Saturday, January 19th          10am – 1pm

Saturday, January 19th          5 – 8pm (ART HOP!)

Tuesday, January 22nd          4 – 6pm

Saturday, January 26th         10am – 1pm

Wednesday, January 30th     5 – 6pm

Saturday, February 2nd         10am – 1pm

All workshops are at the Enrichment Center in Room 1, on the 3rd floor of the Multicultural Arts Center– 645 W. Main St. Merced