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Building the Rochester Folk Art Guild Wood Kiln

I have been spending this summer in Middlesex, NY at the Rochester Folk Art Guild. As an intentional community, life here revolves around everyone's efforts to find the dynamic balance between various disciplines - organic farming, vineyards, craft studios, and grounds maintenance - all held together by an emphasis on mindfulness and a search for the value of working together. My partner, Jessie Kanaley, apprenticed in the pottery studio several years back and acted as the initiating force in finding a place finding our place here for the summer. Aside from researching and using a local pond clay, the bulk of our residency has been on the construction of a wood fired soda kiln.
     We began the construction process by first defining the goals for the kiln - namely to take advantage of plentiful wood sources and to advance the connection to nature through the wood firing process. In determining the type of kiln to build we decided upon a design that would offer a quick turn around, require easy preparation, and provide a finished product that reveals an interaction with the flame. Having seen Bede Clark's 2010 article in The Log Book, a catenary design came to mind.
     After overlooking the design, Jessie and I made several modifications to the dimensions and properties of the kiln that would make it better adapted for use at The Folk Art Guild. We made the kiln suitable for soda firing by including spray ports on each side, lowered the position of the damper for easier use, and increased the size of the ware chamber and chimney to fit in a few more pieces. 

     A large challenge with this construction stemmed from a desire to be resourceful and creative to address issues of cost, time, and available materials. Having now built 7 wood fired kilns, I have developed an admiration for the creative challenges that come with the process - mostly adapting designs for different bricks. It is my goal to build a kiln that is safe, functional and easy to use, and has the integrity to last over time. With these criteria in mind, I also view the process as a personal challenge to work through spatial problems - developing an understanding of materials, construction, and the dynamics of building a structure to efficiently create and contain heat.  More to come on loading, firing, and unloading.


Mitch Iburg