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March 13, 2007
The Ceramics Program at Northwest has been developing its outdoor kiln yard. One of the plans for the kiln yard outside of the Ceramics studio of the Fire Arts Building has always been to build a kiln that is designed and built to be fired with wood as fuel. Firing pottery with wood as is a specialized process; it is one of the oldest technologies developed in the history of ceramics, and one that is still utilized today by contemporary potters and artists in clay for its aesthetic qualities. Building and firing a wood kiln involves much teamwork and long hours of work; it took many, many students from the ceramics program and the Department of Art to get the job done over the past two weeks. This is the first permanent addition to the kiln yard of the Fire Arts Building, located at Third and Munn, at the South end of Campus. With funding from the Culture of Quality, Improvement of Teaching and Learning, and the Clay Club, a student organization, the construction of the wood-firing kiln is complete, and the new kiln is up and running.
Joining Laura Kukkee, Assistant Professor of Art in ceramics and students of the ceramics program in designing, building and firing the kiln is Sam Hoffman who will be on campus for a total of three weeks. Sam Hoffman is a studio potter from Oregon who fires his own work using wood-fired kilns, is a wood firing expert and kiln builder. Sam is a classmate of Laura Kukkee’s from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio where they both earned their MFA degrees in ceramics. Sam has focused primarily on wood firing as a way of finishing his work and is a well-known emerging artist in the field of contemporary wood-fired ceramics.
A kiln-lighting ceremony took place Sunday March 12 at 6 p.m. to at the kiln site to present the new addition to our program and to announce the name of our new kiln to our community. A kiln-lighting ceremony is a traditional Japanese tribute to a new kiln; it is akin to a ribbon cutting. About 40 students, faculty and neighbors attended. Everyone had a chance to see the inside of the kiln and the method that was being used to load the pottery into the kiln, as well as to learn a little about the Japanese philosophy towards ceramic processes. Sam Hoffman presented an eloquent speech about the kiln itself and the meaning of the kiln lighting ceremony.
During the building of the kiln, there was much debate amongst the students and faculty about what the name of the new kiln should be. It is the name that was suggested by Sam Hoffman seemed that perfectly appropriate: “Luna”. He announced the name to the crowd at the lighting ceremony and explained its origins. “Luna” is derived of a combination sources. First is the shape of the kiln, there is a very beautiful and prominent sprung arch that one can see in the brickwork on the side of the kiln, which could be seen as a crescent moon. Secondly, is the practice of wood-firing; the kiln needs to be attended for three days and three nights, continuously. This means much work happens at the kiln over night, under the moon. Thirdly, the name comes from the common belief amongst potters all over the world that kilns are of a female persuasion. After the naming, the kiln was lit and everyone cheered to welcome Luna to Northwest.
Luna will be firing continuously until Wednesday March 14th at midnight, and the entire community is invited to come by the ceramics studio of the Fire Arts Building and experience the drama of wood-firing, meet Sam Hoffman, and talk to the students about the project. The kiln is scheduled to be unloaded on Friday March 16 at noon.
Ceramics, Assistant Professor of Art