White Rocks Kiln

Back in my hometown of Pennsylvania, I've sought out my old friends and fellow potters.  In the process of re-connecting, was fortunate enough to receive a position at Carlisle Arts Learning Center as the Ceramics Studio Program Facilitator.  While at the Center, I caught up with a potter friend, Kurt Brantner who teaches at the center, and was invited to put some work in his "White Rocks Wood Kiln".  I've known Kurt since my days of firing the Jack Troy wood kiln at Juniata College and it was a great pleasure to fire with him again.  His kiln, built in November of 2014, is located in the scenic Cumberland Valley area of PA.  As a studio potter dedicated to the process and aesthetic of wood firing, he fires his kiln about every other month.  Pots that are fired in a wood kiln are blushed by flame and ash, each pot responding uniquely to the river of flame moving throughout.  Rich textures are built from ash deposits and melt, glazes flash, and bare clay displays a rainbow of coloration ranging from red to purple.   The labor intensive process of firing the kiln for three days is worth the reward of a kiln full of gems.  

Planning out the how the pots will be stacked in the kiln.  It's important to consider the interior arrangement to ensure the best effects from the flame and ash.   

Planning out the how the pots will be stacked in the kiln.  It's important to consider the interior arrangement to ensure the best effects from the flame and ash.   

All loaded up, almost entirely according to plan! Sometimes the pots have a way of telling you where they want to go.  

All loaded up, almost entirely according to plan! Sometimes the pots have a way of telling you where they want to go.  

Lovely gems from firing number 7.

Lovely gems from firing number 7.

Kurt Brantner, 2015.

Kurt Brantner, 2015.

Kurt Brantner, 2015.

Kurt Brantner, 2015.

Kirsten Olson, 2015.

Kirsten Olson, 2015.

Kirsten Olson, 2015.

Kirsten Olson, 2015.


AAAS Conference Presentation

In October 2014, with the encouragement of Annie Duffy, a UAF Art Department faculty member and mentor, I presented my thesis work at the Arctic Regional Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Conference.  At the time I saw it as a great opportunity to not only practice presenting my thesis, but also present my research to a different and more diverse audience.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this presentation would enable me to travel and present nationally!! I received the Larus Award which granted me full funding to attend and present at the National AAAS 2015 Conference in San Jose, CA.  What an honor!

The San Jose Convention Center, 2015.

The San Jose Convention Center, 2015.

SWAG

The conference was six days of exciting lectures, symposia, presentations, and seminars on cutting edge research in the fields of physics, earth science, chemistry, math, and social sciences just to name a few.  As an artist/anthropologist attending the event, the topics and lectures were new and fascinating.  There were lectures about science and communication; how is science and scientific fact presented to the public, what is the dialogue between science and religion and how can they work together, what about science and the community, how can we get the community at large involved with and excited about "citizen science", how do we encourage young girls to become scientific leaders, and how can we integrate the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Program in school curriculums.  Other topics included cutting edge research and integration of GPS mapping to better understand, document, and map out endangered languages; isotopic analysis of remains in Anglo Saxon cemeteries to compare and contrast the written history of the time period to scientifically derived fact to paint a new and more accurate picture of the people; and state of the art visualization of classical masterworks of art, including face recognition, computational art history and conservation, and multiband imaging using infrared spectroscopy.  

I'm so grateful to the Annie, the University of Alaska, the Larus Award, and all the wonderful people I met at the conference.  It was a remarkable experience! I've learned a great deal more about art, science, and the potential collaborations that will further our knowledge of historic works of art, culture groups, and how we can participate in science every day!  I even learned a little bit about dark matter and our galaxy--now to incorporate that into my next body of work--now back to the studio!

Liz Berry Kiln Rebuild and Relocation

Hello everyone!  The countdown for the thesis continues, and since things at the studio are partially in kilns currently being fired, I thought I'd give an update on the Liz Berry Kiln.  It's been a long process, but we're making some great progress under the direction and coordination of Diana Berry!  The second chapter is being written and we're rebuilding this piece of Fairbanks history at the Fairbanks Folk School.  

Taking the kiln down, brick by brick.  First to go was the chimney.  Almost all of the hard brick was re-usable so they were put on pallets for easy transfer to the new site (which is so conveniently located a few minutes away!)

Down she goes!  Most of the soft brick just crumbled as it was being taken down.  The floor (which were shelves, surprisingly made it though the 103rd firing, but didn't last five minutes when we were taking her down!).  Sadly the majority of the soft bricks were designated for the fill dirt pile.

So we begin with a plan and a model (made by the ever so amazing Stan).  Stan was there for the original build in '77 and has been an enormous help in the second phase of this project.  

And so the rebuild begins! The kiln's design is based on the original plans (and the wood kiln plans found in Fred Olsen's "The Kiln Book") with a few modifications.  Most of the bricks that we're using have been generously donated by local fellow potters--so we have some 3.5" soft brick and some 4" soft brick, hence calculating and thinking on our feet to ensure true structure for the body!  True to the model, a concrete foundation was poured, a layer of cinderblock laid out (to elevate the fireboxes so we don't have to crouch down to stoke--save our backs!), a layer of insulating brick between the cinderblock and firebox, the floor of the kiln (which are two kiln shelves and the last thing we put in), the body of the kiln, and the chimney. The firebox and chimney will be built using hard brick, the body out of the soft brick.  

Getting the firebox laid out.  One slight modification to the firebox are the small ports (to allow additional air in the kiln to increase the draw--like super mini dampers).

Measure twice build once!

As we lay the bricks out, we ensure that we have nice straight walls by leveling them, from the inside and tapping

Now that we have the body of the kiln all in place, we need to get our iron frame welded in place.

The sparks were flying! We have angle iron around the kiln acting as a supporting frame.  

Planning the arch with the aid of the book and the model, of course!

We had to cut a few to ensure a perfect fit for the arch.

We have our form in and ready to build the arch--brick by brick.

Our fearless leader, Diana! All ready for the final row of number 1 arch bricks!

The arch is done! Now the fun part..pulling out the form which is supported by four posts with a small block of wood on each for "easy" removal.  

And then it snowed..The next step was to build the chimney.  Each hard brick was dipped in fireclay to help seal of the stack.  

Since these photos have been taken, the chimney has been completed and a few minor adjustments have been made.  We're in the process of affixing together soft bricks for the door of the kiln.  The Folk School held a "Pinch Pot and Pizza" party to get community members involved with the school and this exciting kiln! A huge thank you to Diana for all the hard work and effort she's put in to re-building a part of her family legacy and sharing the passion for the wood fire process with the community! The first firing is planned for mid-November, stay tuned or sign up to help out!