The Rocky Road to the New Kiln

The old train kiln’s chimney was leaning like the tower of Pisa and, in fact, Markus Boehm called it the ‘Pisa chimney’ quite often as he thought about the design for our new wood kiln at the School.  The brief was:  had to be able to be fired by only 1 or 2 students in a period of time that they were not exhausted plus some ash effects.  The old kiln was worn out, its bricks had expanded and contracted and without mortar, it was leaking air like a sieve.  The last firing that the students did with Martin Tagseth’s special workshop for the Ceramics Club took around 48 hours but the temperature was uneven with the front reading cone 8/9 and the back cold and the work oxidized.  Our director, Paul Hess, had already decided it was time for a new one in the fall of 2017.

Through a series of events, the School wound up having to get a permit at the 9th hour.  Kudos to Scott Shank, Andrew Sinclair, and the amazing structural engineer whose name I forget (complete apologies).  They took Markus’s sketch, turned it into a detailed drawing and it was stamped by the engineer and presented to the City of Winnipeg for approval.  This was May 11.  Our workshop starts on June 21.  We need materials!  What if we didn’t get our permit?  Some of the participants already had their airline tickets.  I never thought of myself as too anxious a person but this was beginning to cause me to worry.  There were quite a number of people holding their breath.  We kept the faith.  Chris Pancoe ordered the materials that Markus had specified.  Some were coming from Georgia in the US.  The rail strike lingered but was resolved.  Whew!  Everything just seemed like it might be going our way.  Accommodation for the workshop participants was found at St John’s College.  Now, where can you stay for $55 a night including 3 meals?  [They are even making box lunches for the five of them so that they can work through the standard time and not have to leave the construction site.]  The permit came the third week of May.  Materials were to arrive June 18 and 19 – and they did!  It all came together.  The workshop participants arrived from across Canada and from Winnipeg, many current or former students of either the School of Art or the Faculty of Architecture.  They are a great team.  It was inspiring to watch them learn from and work with Markus yesterday.  Stay posted.  The logs arrive today for our firing of the kiln on Thursday the 28th.  I will keep you posted on the progress.

 

Author: maryannsteggles

I am a Professor at the School of Art, University of Manitoba where I teach art history and studio ceramics. My current research is on the history of Canadian wood firing, the marginalization of women within ceramics, and the impact of Vietnam era migrants on the history of Canadian ceramics. You can reach me at my e-mail address: maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca

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