I love creating round, full-bellied vessels and try to make them as big as possible. These large forms can be difficult to lower into the kiln when they are dry, fragile greenware. This challenge is compounded by the fact that my old top-loader kiln isn’t very big, so there is often no room for my hands between the vessel and kiln wall.
My solution to this problem is to lower the vessel into the kiln using a silk scarf. Place the vessel in the middle of a large silk square (1) and gather up each corner and grip tightly. Lower the vessel gently into the kiln (2), then let go of one side of the scarf and let it slip down the side of the vessel. Very carefully, pull on the silk scarf while gently easing the pot off of it (3). Try to capture as much of the silk scarf as possible by wiggling the scarf and vessel. Do not rush this process, you will get there (4)!
I have been using the same scarf to load large pots into my kiln for five years now, and although it is easier with someone else’s help, I have managed this process by myself quite successfully. I use silk as it is not bulky, easily slips out and, if it doesn’t work out and it can’t be retrieved, then it can be abandoned to the kiln gods as it is a natural fiber and won’t damage the kiln when it burns out during the firing.