Build a Wood-Fired Kiln and Shed to support a sustainable model of ceramics and continue a living tradition of craft and community.
Thank you everyone! Let's keep the momentum going. Every dollar you donate will go toward the wood-kiln project.
Sustainability is not about being ‘less bad’, or less negatively impactful; it is really about growing healthy people who continually steward a healthy planet. –Spoken by permaculturalist Joel Glanzberg
The Rochester Folk Art Guild has a rich heritage of craft. The construction of a wood-kiln and a safe kiln-shed to house the kiln would support and enliven this tradition. This project aims to promote three currents that we identify as integral aspects of the Guild's mission: community, education and sustainability.
Why a wood-kiln?
Wood-firing brings together a group in its demand for attention and care while stoking and firing. Rarely is a wood-kiln fired alone; and people join together in the communion of witnessing and tending fire, which transforms the work through a series of phases. For these reasons, a wood kiln is a good fit for our intentional community. We are excited to invite other local potters, wishing for access or to learn about the process, to participate in future firings.
A wood-kiln would complement and reduce use of the two active propane kilns, one of which has been regularly fired for over 40 years. Currently the Guild spends $32,000 a year on propane, a large portion being consumed by the pottery. Wood (a renewable resource) to fire the kiln can be harvested from our well-forested property. We have already started to utilize techniques of sustainable timber-lot management learned from local woodsman and professor Marty Dodge. Almost all of the work to build the shed and kiln will be done at the Guild and will be a special learning project for everyone involved.
Where is the project now?
So far we have chosen a design based on the work of Welsh potter Joe Finch, acquired firebrick from a potter-friend in Brooklyn, dug holes for 12 posts and are on the verge of collecting timber milled by a local Mennonite sawyer. In fact, all the outer cutoffs from the logs used to make the lumber were saved to be fuel for the first firing! Some important yet expensive materials that we still need are K26 grade soft-brick, an iron support system for the kiln, and a concrete slab for a foundation.
Kickstarter is a way for us to fully fund the construction of the wood-kiln and shed. Studio time used to make marketable work–our primary way of sustaining ourselves financially–will be spent developing the kiln project. Additionally, Kickstarter is a good platform to bring our work as a community of craftspeople to a wider audience. Essentially, it allows the feeding of multiple birds with one seed.
Why support this project?
In the effort to fund this new venture and present our work to more people, we are offering some unique Guild items made particularly for this project. Some of the rewards allow you to be personally involved in the creation of a piece. For example: a dish for your pet inscribed in the language of your choice, or the chance to work with a skilled artist to develop an image that will be preserved on ceramic tiles. You could choose to get a first edition wood-fired piece or a vase imprinted with leaves from trees growing around East Hill Farm–the kiln site! You also have the option to join us for a special few days, to take in impressions from Guild life, work alongside potters, farmers, craftspeople, and enjoy wonderful meals in the company of fine people.
The Rochester Folk Art Guild is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions to this project exceeding the value of rewards are tax deductible, depending on your individual situation.
Who are the potters at the Guild now?
Learning about the process of making a pot has been endlessly fascinating for me. I remember my first time seeing the kiln firing two years ago, when I first came to the Guild, and being completely enchanted by the glow and heat radiating out between the bricks. The support in this community for learning the craft on a profound level has fueled my passion for ceramics, and I am excited to be involved in this new wood-kiln project. I am looking forward to the process of building a kiln from start to finish, and rekindling my relationship with fire on a more sustainable level. I am also anticipating how this project will bring new energy into our studio, and further our place as a center for learning and creativity.
In working with ceramics for over seven years now, I see how industry permeates many facets of even a hands-on craft like pottery. This is one of the reasons why I became interested in digging our own clay locally, even from our own property. I feel that it is important and a part of our responsibility as makers to be more aware of our relationship with the earth that supports us. Building a wood-fire kiln for a high production studio would help us do our part in the efforts towards sustainability.
For the past ten years I have been working with clay and see the value in continuing learning about this form at The Folk Art Guild. I have seen my growth over the years by working with different types of clay bodies and have been able to be exposed to wood-fire kilns off the farm. This has given me a clue of the many possibilities that a wood firing has to offer. Although my focus and main strength at the Guild has developed in the decoration of a pot, I see more and more the importance of getting acquainted with the technical aspects to become a more wholesome, well-rounded potter. By opening the possibility of building a wood-fire kiln, I see abundant potential for addressing these areas that otherwise remain in the dark.
I have been working with clay for over forty years, beginning as an apprentice here at the Guild. We were required to make 100 mugs or bowls a day, and trim or handle them the next day. This unusual opportunity created a flow and rhythm to my throwing and has affected the way I work today. I still love working in series, because so much learning, refining, studying the form and myself as I work is possible. One pot builds upon the one before, and as I throw bigger the challenge and delight at answering the new demands grow.
I throw stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware in many shapes and sizes, with an emphasis on function. How can the pots that I make serve the needs of every day life? And enhance the simple acts of eating, drinking, making tea, arranging fresh flowers, and the many other small acts of being alive?
I am drawn to carving in simple patterns and complex ones such as those I studied while traveling and working in China. I love bringing these influences to my work and share them with others. I have trained many potters through our apprenticeship program and have watched them grow as craftspeople and as individuals. I am very happy to witness and support the initiative of the potters at the Guild who wish to build a wood-fire kiln. We are all fired up!
Want to hear more?
The Rochester Folk Art Guild Website: Our vision, history, upcoming events and online store.
October in New York: East Hill Farm/Folk Art Guild Open House: A personal account of visiting the Guild during our yearly open house.
Rochester Folk Art Guild hosting Holiday Festival of Crafts: An article in the local paper that highlights the intentions behind the Guild as well as the teacher/apprentice relationship.
*The sun dial featured above the kiln in the cover design currently overlooks the chosen site for the future kiln and was created by a longtime Guild member. The kiln drawing itself is a reproduction of the design by Joe Finch. The logo is the current symbol stamped on our Guild pottery. - Drawing and design by Carla Padvoiskis, Turiya Gross and Daniel Barnet.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
An exciting part of this project is the experience of kiln building. We are just learning, which may slow us down in the construction process, but are fortunate to be surrounded by craftsmen of all different capabilities.
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