In July 2009, the 3rd
Installment of an International Wood Firing Exchange transpired; instead of
occurring in Denmark, Missouri, Sweden, or anywhere else in the world, it was
held in Pittsburgh, PA at Carlow University. It would end
in the Clay Place Gallery at Standard Ceramic Supply (who not only donated a
gallery for an exhibition of the finished work, but also contributed over 3000
pounds of clay for the workshop).
The first installment to this international firing occurred
two years prior in Denmark, at Gregory Hamilton Miller’s Home and Studio. The
second installment happened a year later, on the campus of Missouri State
University. Due to the immense success of the previous international workshops,
Dale Huffman (professor at Carlow University) and Justin Rothshank (then
manager of the clay studios at the Union Project in Pittsburgh) made their
proposal to host the 3rd installment of this international wood fire
exchange. Funding was gathered from local foundations and individuals, the
artists traveled in, and starting on July 6, a total of thirteen
artists from Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the United States gathered for a
three week long workshop of creating, firing, and exhibiting wood fired
ceramics and exchanging and teaching techniques and processes.
The included artists were Gary Greenberg from Clarion
University (PA), Dale Huffman from Carlow University (PA), Justin Rothshank
(IN), Keith Ekstam and Kevin Hughes from Missouri State University (MO), Ron
Tenace (PA), Eric Knoche (NC), Eva
Zethraeus(Sweden), Ann Charlotte-Ohlsson (Denmark), Janice
Hunter (Denmark), Janna Hieck (Germany), and Gregory Hamilton Miller (Denmark).
After a few day of preparation, the artists invited in the
public to show what they had begun to make, and how they were doing it. Nearly
100 people walked through the doors at Carlow University to see the
demonstrations, lectures, and slide shows. Regional students, ceramic
enthusiasts, and arts educators were in attendance. A wide range of ceramic
knowledge was shown at these demonstrations. From Kevin Hughes’ press molded
Kewpies, to Janice Hunter’s marbled porcelain and stoneware forms, and Gary
Greenburg’s thrown and altered “Urns”, there was no shortage of information
shared and techniques displayed.
A few days later, after much of the work had been dried and
quickly bisque fired, the workshop was uprooted and moved 50 miles southeast of
Pittsburgh to the Laurelville Mennonite Church Camp. This is the site at which
Justin Rothshank and the Union Project had built their wood kiln nearly 2 years
After a solid 14 hours, the 150 cubic foot “Makigama” kiln
was loaded full of bisque ware and green ware. At approximately 5:00 A.M.
eastern time, the kiln began its kindling time with newspapers and sticks. This
started the nearly 90-hour firing. Usually during a wood firing, when you
aren’t stoking, chopping wood, or stacking wood, you are resting; but this
situation wasn’t like others. There was a lot to be accomplished in these 90
hours besides the standard.
As the kiln was being loaded, other projects were initiated.
Gregory Hamilton Miller began the construction of a “Pizzagama” on the kiln
site. This igloo-shaped kiln was built specifically for baking wood fired
pizzas and breads. On the other side of the wood kiln Gary Greenberg, Eric
Knoche, and Eva Zethraeus
began construction on a wood fired salt kiln. The difference in this wood and
salt combination was in the construction materials. This kiln was constructed
of used hard bricks, oval rings of an old Blue Diamond electric kiln, and used
As the firing proceeded, the construction of the Pizzagama
was finished, and fresh wood fired pizzas began to feed the crew at all hours
of the day and night. Also, as usual, Gary Greenburg’s foil fired turkey dinner
went off without a hitch. Fifty
plus pounds of turkey and vegetables were cooked in roughly 4 hours. The
turkeys were prepared, then wrapped in a layer of aluminum foil, clay, another
layer of foil, then buried in a pit of hot coals until recommended cooking time
All the kilns were unloaded after a much needed three-day
rest. The visiting artists were able to visit regional attractions such as
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, The Andy Warhol Museum, and a Pirate’s
Baseball Game. The kiln was unloaded on Wednesday July 29th. Each
artist had roughly a day and a half after the kiln was unloaded to decide which
pieces they thought were their best and prepare them for the exhibition at
Standard Ceramics, which opened that Friday.
The concluding exhibition of the International exchange
demonstrated the value and importance of artistic collaboration and the
workshop environment. More than 100 regional artists and art patrons attended
the exhibition opening. Artists and patrons alike were able to see the fruits
of their labor.
The act of teaching, creating, and exhibiting such a wide
range of ceramic art will certainly lead to further international exchanges and
the cultivation of relationships among international artists. Events like this
show the importance and viability of the ceramic community.