We are raising money to build a wood fired kiln to provide community access to this special type of firing. This kiln would bring a group of interested people together to build the kiln, to fire pottery with a sustainable fuel, and to provide a hands-on educational experience for local high school students.
Building a kiln requires teamwork both in fund-raising, and in designing the kiln and a shelter for it. Because the kiln is fired to temperatures as high as 2380 F (1300 C), it must be built with high-temperature fire bricks and a high chimney. A shelter with a metal roof is necessary to protect the kiln from exposure to rain and snow.
Firing the kiln begins with preparing the wood. Many people fire with wood slabs from saw mills which need to be cut to length and stacked under shelter to stay dry. The kiln is readied for firing by coating kiln shelves and posts with kiln wash to prevent pots from sticking to them. The pots are carefully loaded into the kiln and the door is bricked up. Shifts of people fire the kiln over a period of about 30 hours. After cooling, the kiln is unloaded and cleaned.
As fossil fuels become scarcer and more expensive, wood-firing becomes more attractive. Wood is a locally available renewable fuel which is burned cleanly at a high temperature. The guild is also looking for local sources of clay and glaze materials.
As we move into the future, we will need to relearn skills for making what we need for daily life. A wood-fired kiln will be a valuable community resource for many years going forward. We plan to use it as a teaching tool for interested people in the area, especially high school students. It is an opportunity for people of different ages to work together on a common goal and to participate in a process of making something from start to finish.
After looking at several possible sites for the kiln, the Guild suggests that it be built at Seeds of Solidarity Farm. They have a space near the road that is more accessible year-round than other places. In addition, it is close to water and shelter for the people firing the kiln. It is a plus that Seeds of Solidarity already has a relationship with local high schools and also carries insurance. The guild’s goal is to help pay for the necessary insurance.
We have heard from potters who have built kilns recently that the total cost could range from $10-15,000 for materials. All labor would be volunteer. The guild began outreach to the community with a clay activity at the Garlic and Arts Festival last year. Fund-raising has begun with a calendar for 2015 with more projects in the works.
The kiln we plan to build is Japanese, the Sasukenai Smokeless Kiln. Sasukenai means “No problem!” or “No worries, mate!” This type of kiln was designed by Masakazu Kusakabe, who has researched, designed, and built many smokeless and efficient wood-fired kilns in Asia, Europe, Canada, and California. Kusakabe’s kilns produce traditional ash-glazed surfaces in relatively short firing cycles with no smoke. The position and relatively large size of the firebox and the tall chimney allow for effective combustion as well as ash distribution. Kusakabe is the co-author of “Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics”, Krause Publications, 2005.