Life throws challenges all the time and it's up to us to sort them out. And part of the process is separating the problem from our reaction to it.
A couple days ago, I went to check the temp on my kiln. The display read "E - 1" which is an error saying the kiln was taking too long to reach its top temp, so it turned itself off. One of the reasons could be a faulty element. My kiln has 4, and I just replaced them back in January, so it seemed strange to me an element wasn't working properly.
After letting the kiln cool, I opened and unloaded the entire thing exposing all of the elements. I took little pieces of paper and stuck one against each coil then turned the kiln on and waited. I was looking for the paper to start burning. Three of the four pieces started to smolder, which helped me identify the problem child. Next was to open the panel and make sure all the wires were connected.
As it turned out, one end of the bad element had snapped off...how this happened, I'm not exactly sure since the element hadn't been through that many firings since being replaced, but I imagine the intense heat is enough make the metal rather brittle.
Panic started to set in....my next big market is 3 weeks away. And while I try to be prepared, I do not have backup elements on hand. Again, I just replaced them, I didn't even think to order another set to have so soon. I immediately ordered a full set and a single element. I have no idea if there's a supply issue on kiln parts, and since the pieces will be coming from Ontario, is three weeks enough time to get them and do multiple firings?
I started to think I should cancel the upcoming show. I started to feel like a failure and beat myself up for not having extra parts on hand. Then I got a bit more clarity. Just because the kiln isn't working right now, doesn't mean it won't be soon. And it doesn't mean I can't still be making work and having it ready when the kiln is up and running. Also, while potters can be rather solitary, they are also a supportive and understanding community regarding the struggles we face when things just are't going right. It was time to reach out to some fellow ceramic friends and see if they would be willing to let me fire in their kilns should I need to.
While there is still much work to do and I'm not out of the weeds yet, the problem is manageable and solvable. There's no reason to get worked up about a fairly common kiln issue. Live and learn, adapt, shift, and be better prepared in the future. I'm making the situation work.