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Making Gifts with Your Kiln

A few weeks ago I made my wife, Sandi, an Art Clay Silver medallion for her birthday. I squeezed the clay from a syringe into the shape of a heart. When the clay dried it was too hard to carve, so I sprinkled several drops of water onto it. Half an hour later when the clay was softer, I carved a message with a bent paperclip onto the front and back.

I placed the medallion into a Paragon SC-2 kiln, programmed a full rate to 1600 degrees F with a 10-minute hold, pressed Start, and walked away. After the kiln had cooled to 800 degrees F, I turned it off and removed the medallion with a long putty knife. Then I held the knife and medallion under a water faucet. A few seconds later it was cool enough to touch.

The silver was covered with a white coating, which took a couple of minutes to scrub off with a small wire brush. The crude little heart that I squeezed out of a syringe was no longer clay. Now it glistened.

We were sitting around a table at a surprise birthday party when Sandi opened the card that contained the medallion. When she saw it, she was stunned. Sandi’s sister Audra, who was sitting next to her, looked over at the medallion. Audra cried when she held it. Sandi came over and hugged and kissed me. Then she passed the medallion around the table. Her uncle Mark leaned over to me and whispered in mock seriousness, “Why did you make that for her? Now they’re going to expect it from the rest of us men!”

I was surprised that the hand-made gift of a silver heart had such a profound impact. We underestimate how special are the things we make from a wad of clay or slivers of glass.

With a little creativity, you can make gifts with your kiln that your loved ones will always remember. Suggestions:

1) The most personal gifts are jewelry, which you can make with silver clay, copper enameling, glass fusing, ceramics, stoneware, or porcelain.

2) Inscribe a personal message into the piece. This is easy to do with clay, whether it is silver or ceramics. You could also paint a message onto porcelain or glass. You could even emboss a message into hot glass if you had the right tools.

3) The gift does not have to be exquisitely designed. Far more important is that you made it yourself.

4) When you test ceramic glazes, do not use throwaway tiles. Instead, make dozens of small medallions that you can give to friends. Some of those test glazes will be stunning. Even the “ugly” ones can look beautiful on a medallion.


Last week I wrote, “Cutting glass: Memorize the sound of a glasscutter in the hands of an expert, and duplicate that sound when you cut glass. Press the cutter in such a way that the sound is steady and even. To master a glasscutter, listen to the sound it makes.”

Linda of the Ohno Organization wrote, “I learned how to shift my motorcycle at the right time by the sound I had memorized in my mind. Sound is spiritual.”

Charlie Spitzer of Cave Creek, Arizona wrote, “The sound of a glass cutter is the same as long as you're using the same type and color of glass. When you switch to a different color or manufacturer, the sound is different because the glass may be harder/softer/more or less brittle, etc. Some glasses actually have NO sound when cut correctly.”

Linda and Charlie, thanks for your special insights. I look forward to hearing from more readers. Just hit “Reply” to send a message.

Paragon’s CEO John Hohenshelt and I returned this week from the National Council for Education on the Ceramic Arts annual convention in Portland, Oregon. It is exhilarating to be with creative people for days on end. However, my favorite moment was arriving home early Saturday morning after flying the "red eye" and dropping into a deep, joyous sleep.

With best wishes,

Arnold Howard Paragon Industries, L.P. - Better Designed Kilns 2011 South Town East Blvd. Mesquite, TX 75149-1122 Voice: 972-288-7557 & 800-876-4328 / Fax: 972-222-0646 /

Feel free to email this Kiln Pointer to friends. To read back issues Click here or go to, select “Support,” and then “Kiln Pointers” from the drop menu.

To respond to this Kiln Pointer, press Reply. Your email will go directly to Arnold Howard.

PRIVACY NOTICE: Under no circumstance do we share or sell your email address.

Copyright 2006, by Paragon Industries, L.P.

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