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.
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.
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.
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!
When I moved to Fairbanks, I was fortunate enough to find a quaint little cabin, a few minutes away from the University. It just so happened, that this cabin had a wood kiln on the property. What I soon learned was the amazing history of this place! My cabin used to be the studio for Liz Berry, a well known local potter, and her husband, Bill Berry who is a famous Alaskan illustrator. The kiln had been designed and built in 1977 by Fred Olsen, who came up for a two day workshop to direct the build. Liz Berry and other local potters were the work force--you go girls (and one gentleman who was here for the last firing and is helping to direct the rebuild). The kiln was only meant to last about fifty firings, but she's held up all the way through the 103rd! I'm honored to be a part of this piece of Fairbanks history. The Folk School, which is just up the road from her previous home, has made room to rebuild this historic kiln on their property for many more years and firings to come! Updates of the re-build to follow!