|Teacup and Saucer, Arabesque Collection|
After my last post, I was asked to comment on health and safety in the studio.
Let me start this discussion by stating outright that I am not a safety expert. Nor do I wish to portray myself as such. I'm just a girl who went to art school, and who makes her living making pots.
So, with the disclaimer out of the way, here's some general thoughts on health and safety in the studio when it comes to testing glazes:
There are ALWAYS risks associated with ceramic materials. Some materials and their associated risks are well known in the ceramic world: silica dust for example, a basic ingredient in clays and glazes, is well know for its affect on your respiratory system over time. Other ingredients may pose risks that many people may be completely unaware of (cobalt, anyone?) and yet these ingredients are used all the time.
Ultimately, it is up to you to learn about the materials you are working with. What are the hazards associated with them? What level of risk do they pose? Are you equipped to deal with this material in your studio? Whenever you pick up a new material to work with in your glazes, ask for the MSDS sheets. These are available at any place where the ingredients are sold. They are also all over the internet. Do your homework. Any number of ceramic websites also have all kinds of information on the health and safety of ceramic materials.
That being said, some basics for studio safety include things like:
- Wear an appropriate respirator when mixing glazes. Yes, yes, I know. They are uncomfortable. It's hard to breathe in them. If you wear glasses, they can be especially cumbersome. But suck it up. Breathing is kinda important so don't mess with your lungs.
- Keep your studio well ventilated - turn on an exhaust fan, open a window, get the air moving through and out of your studio. Not just when you are mixing glazes, or cleaning up after mixing glazes, but also while you are firing your kiln.
- Use a kiln vent. Keep your kiln in a well ventilated room. Don't go in there during the firing, and wait until the air has cleared after the firing. If you can smell fumes while your kiln is firing, you shouldn't be in your studio.
- Wear gloves when mixing glazes. Many ingredients cause contact dermatitis. Other ingredients can be absorbed into the skin, most of which you probably don't want in your body.
- Wear eye protection. Some materials can be absorbed through mucous membranes, which include your eyes.
- Use a wet sponge to wipe down tables and work surfaces, and mop your floors. It's important to keep dust levels down.
Basically it all boils down to you. Take responsibility for your actions. Take responsibility for your work. Understand what you are working with. Take the appropriate safety measures. Educate yourself.
Here are some links to great articles regarding health and safety in the ceramic studio:
- Being Realistic about Toxicity and Safety in Ceramics
- Dealing with Dust in Ceramics
- Manganese Toxicity
- Overview of Material Safety
- Pregnancy and Ceramics
So. After having said all of that, please note the following:
- If you injure or poison yourself testing glazes in your own studio, it's not my fault.
- If you develop an allergic reaction or choke on dust or fumes, it's not my fault.
- if you break the space/time continuum and open up a portal to another dimension, IT'S NOT MY FAULT.