Making Kiln Stilts

I have a decent selection of store bought stilts for the occasional need to glaze a project completely. Most of the stilts are for something at least 3″ across so that the object balances evenly on the stilt, but one of my students wanted to make marbles- smaller than an inch across sized marbles. While I thought her plan of designing and carving these tiny sculptures was a great idea, I also explained that if she wanted to use glaze on the entire surface, I had no way of supporting them in the kiln on my existing stilts. She took a second to think about it and then asked if she could make her own stilts with the nichrome wire that I use in my work often- and she did. We bisque fired her tiny stilts and marbles and when she glazed them, each one was propped on its own individually made stilt and placed in the kiln. They worked brilliantly and since then I’ve started making all of my own stilts.

Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture | the dirt | making kiln stilts

I roll out a slab of clay on my slab roller and use cookie cutters to cut out as many shapes as I can fit on the slab. Then I use nichrome wire and cut it into short lengths, trying to be as consistent as possible with the size and also trying to cut the wire on a sharp angle so that the pointiest part is what will touch the glaze and I stick them evenly spaced into the clay shapes. I use a medium gauge nichrome wire for this, if it is to thin, they tend to sag in the firing while supporting your piece or wear out quickly, too thick and they leave a heavier mark in the glaze for you to grind out afterwards. If you have left over element pins, these work great too for holding sturdier pieces. Each piece is dried and bisque fired and then you are good to go. My stilts get a lot of kiln time and eventually wear out but then I just crank out a new batch and I’m set to go again.

I love that the ingenuity of my students, not only made me look at my existing supplies in a new way but they also don’t let the studio limitations limit their work. #mystudentsrock

Studio Tour

If you’ve never been to the studio or you haven’t visited me in awhile, now is your chance to check out all the new and fun things going on at my studio in the redwoods. Click play on the video to take a virtual tour of my studio. You are always welcome to make an appointment to tour the studio in person too!

New Video!

I’ve just launched a new video on my You Tube channel! I’m making these pieces for a custom order and thought it would be a great opportunity to share the process. This is a quick time lapse video of me making a sprout form in the studio, the video is less than a minute long but the piece took about a 20 minutes to make. The next steps are for it to dry completely, be fired in the kiln for about 10 hours, then glazed and fired once more. I’ve made hundreds of these little sprouts to be used as the inside pieces of my Nest Series. A few of these pieces were also featured in the Fire & Water In the Field Series. I hope this helps you understand all the work that goes into making even the smallest of pieces. Enjoy the video and let me know what you think!

Studio’s Closed ( just for a few weeks!)

Jenni Ward ceramic sculpture | the dirt | Studio's Closed (just for a few weeks)Just wanted to let you know that you won’t receive The Dirt in your inbox for the next few weeks as I’ll be on the road exploring through Spain and Morocco — Wahoo! I promise to share my adventures and photos of all the amazing Gaudi art and ceramic tile work as soon as I return- Inspiration through Exploration!

Also, just a reminder that the studio will re-open for classes the week of Sept 28th. Adult classes will be offered on Tues nights from 7 – 9pm and Thurs mornings from 10 – 12pm. Private classes for kids, families and home-school groups are also available, but space is limited.

And mark your calendars for Open Studios 2015!
October 10, 11, 17 & 18
Studio is open 11- 5

Nina Graduates!



If you have been to the studio or your kids have taken a class here, you probably have run into Nina. She’s helped me in the studio and with classes since she was about 12 and she took classes with me before that. In the past few years, she’s also started to photograph most of my work (almost every shot on my website is hers!). Not only is she talented, mature and capable but she is also just about the kindest soul I’ve ever encountered. She graduates from Aptos High School this week and will be pursuing a focus in the arts at Cabrillo College next fall. I’m so proud of her and can’t wait to see the mark she makes on the world!

Congrats Nina!