Life Lesson #2 from the Kiln: Surrender

I love Fall, and I’ll never understand why we don’t capitalize the seasons, but we do so for the days of the week. (Just the English teacher in me coming out—sorry.) Here in Colorado, this season’s over all too soon for me. The aspen leaves, which we commonly call “Colorado gold,” can change anytime from the middle of September to the third week of October. The air gets that crisp feel, and then . . . we usually get our first snow and/or bitter cold snap by Halloween. You can almost set a clock by it.

A few weeks back, I bought a texture tile in anticipation of doing some Fall leaves. I prepped it the way I do all the other texture tiles I’ve used, with four coats of ZYP and then visually double-checked that all the minute spaces had been liberally covered. Looked good.

I laid out about a dozen different colors of frit, both fine and powder, to begin sifting into each leaf form—first the veins, and then the leaves proper. I then cleaned up the overspill carefully, sweeping off the spaces between each leaf, though I intentionally didn’t get every last speck. Again, things looked good to go.

I arranged the kiln posts, carefully set the filled mold onto them, and then meticulously cleaned a piece of Clear and a piece of Clear//White Wispy OGT 96 and placed them carefully on top of the frit-filled texture tile. I closed the lid and programmed the kiln. Since I couldn’t find any dedicated instructions for this texture tile, I used the same program I have used for a similarly complex tile, “Lady of the Woods.” Seemed good to me.

The next day, when I opened the kiln, the leaves looked gorgeous—just like I had hoped they would. But a couple of seconds later, I saw something else: things were not good. In fact, short of glass exploding all over the kiln, I can’t really think of a more screwed up project. The glass, as you can see below, is cracked in multiple places (about a dozen, though this photo doesn’t show them all).

Because I am used to trying lots of things to fix projects that went wrong—devitrification, bubbles, migrating glass designs, reactions I hadn’t planned for—my first thought was, Well, I can fix this, too. All I need to do is reassemble the pieces and fire them again into one homogenous piece.

Then I started trying to remove them.

A few came off readily, but some were stuck. After about a half hour coaxing some of those off, I was down to three pieces that were SO stuck that I was afraid I would destroy the mold trying to remove them. I tried reheating the glass, freezing the mold, and lots of delicate prying. But I felt I was forced to surrender. Whatever happened in this project had beaten me.

I was so discouraged—and angry, even—that I just had to walk away from the disaster and not look at it for a couple of weeks. Now, the glorious, leafy-gold explosion of my favorite season is well underway. In about 2-3 weeks, it will be over. I’ve had to surrender to that reality, too, which happens every year: Summer surrenders to Fall, Fall to Winter, Winter to Spring, and Spring to Summer, and, as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote over and over in Slaughterhouse Five, “So it goes.”

More than once, I thought about tossing all this glass filled with fractured fall leaves and that mold with stuck glass on it into the trash. After all, I’ve done all I know to do, right? It will be