Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Real Deal

This whole project began simply enough. We wanted to make another kiln. The vision for my property had always included a complex of different kilns; it was only a matter of when they would get built. Following the construction of my first kiln, aptly named the ‘Community Temple’, I had set about working on a number of other pressing concerns, mainly making and selling pottery to alleviate my seemingly dire financial situation.

Josh Copus' kiln, the Community Temple

During this time I also continued to work out on my property, building a studio, continuing to improve my living situation, and generally improving the state of my land through grading work of all sorts. I never intended to build the other kilns so soon. A number of events took place to lead us to the point we are today. Two most significant of these were Eric’s new situation and the possibility of securing more bricks.
First, Eric bought a home in Asheville, which is great but is no place for a wood kiln. Eric and I are in agreement about the realities of making a start as a young artist, and we both understand that firing with other people can be incredibly beneficial but there comes a time when working on someone else’s schedule becomes limiting. In many cases, for a young artist to take the next step means making their own kiln, and we both agreed that Eric had reached that point. Having no place to put it, a decision was reached for it to be housed on my property and jointly built and owned by Eric and I.
It is one thing to decide that you are going to make a kiln and an entirely different thing to actually do it. The cost of materials is prohibitively expensive and the amount of time, energy, and know-how it takes to pull it off can be daunting. During the construction of the ‘Temple’, I was blessed to discover a source of bricks that allowed me to make my kiln with my limited financial resources. By maintaining a positive relationship with ‘the source’, my ability to obtain more bricks remained intact and coupled with the falling price of petroleum, it was decided that there was no time like the present to start running bricks again.

The brick running machine all loaded up and ready to role.
(please understand that these bricks are not available anymore and I have been asked by the parties involved not to reveal any information about this situation. Please be considerate of this request and do not try to uncover the location of this source)

As the reality of making another kiln started to come to fruition, we began to realize that we also had an amazing opportunity to do something more than just build a new kiln. We envisioned an event that would bring a group of artists together to exchange knowledge and inspiration, and share in the benefits of the experience. We saw this as opportunity to build momentum and add energy to the work we have already begun. We wanted to form new friendships and continue contributing to the ceramics community. Those were just some of the ideas behind the Carolina Kiln Build.
I think more than anything we wanted to teach and inspire other people to build their own wood-burning kilns. Eric and I both learned to how to build kilns by actually building kilns and we believe that there is really no substitute the type of education that occurs when you are working with bricks and mortar. There is no better way to learn something than by actually doing it, and both Eric and I are fortunate to have been involved in a variety of kiln building projects. However, we also realized that our situations may be relatively unique and not everyone has the access to the same types of opportunities that we have.
We wanted to provide those types of opportunities to other people because we felt that there was a need for it. There are other kiln building workshops, and they are definitely filling a certain need in our community, but in my experience they are generally cost prohibitive and often focused on teaching participants to build the kiln that is being built in the workshop and not as much interested in teaching the skills and creative thinking necessary to build any type of kiln. What we mean by this is often kiln building workshops are working with a specific design and all the materials to build that design have been ordered in advance and everything you need is on site and organized…all that you have to do is put the pieces together. Of course this is the ideal way to build a kiln, but in all honesty it is often not a reality. In my experience it is much more realistic to find the materials first, and generally that means using weird stuff or old stuff, and then find a way to build what you want with what you have. This approach involves a lot of creative thinking and on-site decision making, but all of that problem solving and head scratching can create confidence in a person that just following directions is incapable of. This has been our experience and it is our intention to share this experience with others.
We also wanted to make this experience affordable, so that other young artists like ourselves without a lot of money could be involved. We also set about securing affordable lodging so that the participants could live and cook meals on-site, which will further reduce the cost. It is hard enough to not make any money for three weeks and the reality of having to pay out on top of that seemed like it would deter a lot of people from the ability to participate. Therefore, We chose to not charge tuition for this event and simply trade our knowledge for the labor of the people involved.

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