NDSU Ignites a New Light for Art
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 12:10
With so much happening in the art community around town, NDSU was not far behind in contributing to the scene. Wednesday marked a new chapter in the history of NDSU as the inaugural fire of the wood kiln was lit at Renaissance Hall.
After eight years of laborious efforts and months of ingenious designing, NDSU now has a wood kiln at their art building. Although this is not the first time the art department has had a wood kiln for firing pottery, the latest installation is better than any of the wood kilns around and has been custom designed by two faculty members from the Department of Visual Arts, David G. Swenson and Daniel Wade Siverson.
The wood kiln is large enough to fire a couple thousand pieces at one time.
Although wood kilns have been used since ancient ages, this kiln attempts to overcome the difficulties posed by conventional design. Associate Professor David Swenson explained, “The older kiln had less wide bricks, but this has much thicker bricks. Also, the door has been custom-made and made of strong refractory cast material.”
The wide opening of the kiln facilitates firing of larger pieces. Because the opening was so wide, the door had to be made larger than usual. David and Daniel designed the door by themselves, too.
When asked about the funding for this kiln, David said, “It was not an easy task, because a kiln so large was going to cost us a lot. But when Michael Strand became the department head, he realized that this was a necessary expense.”
Glazing of fired works requires three components: glass former, flux and sticker. The most common problem in a wooden kiln is the glazing of the pottery, as the ash from the wood hinders the binding of the glaze. But in this kiln, the ash from the wood is used as a flux, which solves the problem.
The kiln was fired at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and the first cycle would be completed by Sunday.
This kiln was tested out in June for the first time. David joked, “It was middle of June and not the right time we would want to be around a 2300-degree Fahrenheit kiln. But we are glad everything worked out perfectly.”
This kiln is not only for the NDSU students, but also for freelance and other artists. “The artists can have their works fired here at NDSU kiln for a reasonable fee,” David added.
Meg Roberts, an NDSU graduate in arts who turned down offers from a number of science and math colleges to study art, was very excited about the kiln inauguration. “The art students will now have one more skill they can learn. We have all the modern methods to fire pottery, but the conventional method has its advantages and it will be great if students got a wider exposure,” she said.
The artists around town are happy that art is getting recognition that it deserves in the modern society. It has taken a lot of time and effort and the change is only small yet substantial, but art is no longer just a hobby; in fact it is fast-growing to become a competitive profession.
“In years to come, I would not be surprised if art gains more momentum as it is already being included at a more basic level in our education system,” Meg concluded.