Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chuck Solberg Anagama

Ari stopped by during the urban woodfire experiment. He raised the idea of fixing up Patricia (the Edina Art Center woodkiln). I said that before we expend any more energy on that kiln, we should both get some experience firing a woodkiln or two with some people who know what they are doing. Ari was around all summer. We played several rounds of disc golf and went on a "cerami-bender". He told me he wants to go to med school, so I tried to get Adam and him together. I was hoping Adam could share some insights into what it takes to get into med school and what it's like once your in. I believe that if you decide you want to do something you should talk to people who have already done it.

So Ari went back to Colorado College and I contacted Martin. He is a friend of mine who fired Patricia with us probably 4 or 5 times. He has been renting studio space from Chuck Solberg, a local clay artist. Chuck and a small group of clay enthusiasts built an anagama about an hour or two West of the cities. I asked Martin if I could get in on the next firing. He talked to Chuck and they needed a little more help stoking the kiln. The arrangement was made that I could put about 20 pots in if I would work a 6 hour shift and pay a little money (I ended up paying $75).

We got the midnight to 6am shift Sunday morning. The kiln was started with propane on Wednesday night. It had been stoked continuously since. It was pretty much at temperature when we arrived. We were mostly just keeping it there, soaking it, allowing more ash to build up on the surface of the pots. It was a great night, very relaxing. We listened to a late night airing of "American Routes" on NPR. The dj was focusing on the music and life story of Johnny Cash. The wood was precut and stacked, four foot lengths of slab wood, off-cuts from a lumber mill up North. We took alternating 45 minute shifts feeding it into the firebox. We talked about books and jobs, drank some coffee.

The kiln was unloaded about a week later. I wasn't there for the loading or unloading, something I regret. My schedule just didn't allow it. I would have liked to be there for both, to see how the pots are loaded, and to see what results different areas of the kiln produce. From what I have been told and have experienced first hand, all kilns fired with a flame (wood or gas) have different zones in them where slightly different temperatures occur. Amounts of ash (or salt/soda if added) can very too, along with levels of reduction. The results were ok, a bit darker then I would have liked, but the pots are growing on me. I used the same yellow underglaze I used on the face vase. You can see that it burned out, went to a creamish brown color. I often joke with Martin, calling a wood kiln a brownification chamber. You know going in that things will be various shades of brown, that is what they tend to do. A student of mine, John E., described the woodfired look as a pot that looks like you buried it in the ground and dug it up a thousand years later. I like that way of describing it. I hope to get to fire the kiln again, and will try to make pieces specifically for the kiln. I was not intending to wood fire these pieces when I made them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Urban Woodfire?

The last time I fired the kiln at the Edina Art Center, we were joined by a guy named Brandon. That firing may have been the last, if you want to know the reasons why, you can read this post. Brandon contacted me last Spring and asked if I wanted to try another sort of wood fire. He saw an article in the February issue of Ceramics Monthly in which Bruce Bowers describes converting an old electric kiln into a gas fired kiln in which wood is added at the end to create some ash deposits on the pottery. The idea is to achieve wood fired results with less work in an urban setting. If you are thinking this is too good to be true, well maybe. We got an old kilin, stripped out the wiring, filled in all the coil pockets with a mixture of clay and saw dust and set it up in my back yard. We fired it with propane using a weed burner we got from Continental Clay. The article suggests using a Venturi Burner (sp?), something that costs about $200. We opted for the $60 weed burner. Needless to say, we didn't get to temp. We probably maxed out at about cone 7 after 12 hours. Weed burners are typically used to fire similar little homemade and converted kilns for raku. That is a much lower temperature, something around cone 04. We had never tried using one for reaching cone 10 and if anyone out there is considering it, I would advise against it. They just don't put out the necessary BTUs. One thing that was nice to learn is that there are plenty of junker kilns out there that people are willing to give away or sell for under $100. We got ours for free and had leads on several others. Craigs list is a good place to look if you are interested. Brandon took the kiln over to his moms house and is considering building a new burner. He thinks he should be able to build a venturi burner for quite a bit less than $200. If that happens he may try it again and has promised to give me a call.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Eye Project

The eye project is up.
I received a grant from the Edina Ed Fund to create a piece of public art for Edina High School. It is currently being displayed along the hall of the new fine arts wing. It is a series of nine large photographs of eyes. The eyes belong to Edina High School students. Ten students were selected to be the subjects. Each was selected by a different teacher. The teachers worked together to capture a broad cross section of students. The eyes are all displayed along with two pieces of writing. One was written by the student depicted in the photograph. They were asked to write a brief description of what daily life is like for them at the school. The second piece of writing is by an older relative of that particular student. This relative was asked to write a description of what life was like for them when they were high school age. Photographer Matt Blum was hired to do the photography. One of the students didn't complete the writing so we ended up with nine. The project will remain on the walls at least through the end of January. It is my hope to fill the frames they now occupy with some art made by our students.

Completed Ceramics Room Mural

The mural is up. Students in ceramics levels 2-4 proposed designs last Fall for this. We went through several rounds of voting and this design was victorious. The artist is Henry C.. It is me riding a pink hippo who is eating a rainbow that is coming from a pot of gold. It appears that the pot of gold is being defended by a sword wielding leprechaun. I have a spear and a turtle on my side. The turtle is named Turdis (I am not sure how it is spelled) and he has some sort of sound gun on his back that is in the process of being fired. It took us a long time to get it done, but its up. My friend Adam came in over the summer and helped me put it up. There is still plenty of open wall for another one!