Students and faculty will spend a continuous 60 hours this winter camping out with a kiln in order to create a unique glazed finish on handmade pottery.
“Jake, the previous instructor, made wood burning a community project,” Ceramics Instructor Dave Funk said. “I would like to keep it that way.”
Wood burning consists of the continuous act of placing wood into a kiln filled with ceramics. The wood burning is held on the property of Joe Pritchett in Edom.
“I offered the space to the previous instructor because I could not donate money to the school,” Pritchett said. “It took him about two weeks to build the kiln. We’re out in the country so we don’t have to worry about smoke emissions.”
Funk said he might go through four chords of wood. Afterwards, he said the wood must be cut and split, stacked and loaded into the kiln.
“The kiln utilizes wood as the primary energy source instead of electricity, oil or gas,” he said. “It makes environmental materials, like wood ash, useful.”
Funk said the ash made from the burning wood gives the pottery a detailed finish.
“In a fire, the ash flies up and the flakes land on the pots and turn into a glaze,” he said. “The kiln will burn at about 100 degrees an hour.”
Funk said he prefers to use either oak or pine wood.
“I use oak for the charcoal and the heat, and pine for the color,” he said. “With pine, you get better colors like greens and blues so it’s not all brown. The color of the glaze is the color of the ash.”
Funk said he would like to have a lot of people involved so that no one will have to work alone.
“Students who want to participate can,” he said. “We have people come from Dallas and UT. It’s open to the public to come and watch and everybody can do something. Hopefully it will be a big team effort.”
Pritchett said the students are allowed to camp on the property.
“There is a place in the back where they can set up tents,” he said. “They can also cook as well. It’s like a social activity.”
Rachel Singletary, who attended the wood firing last year, said there was a big turnout.
“We brought food and stayed up really late,” she said. “Some people had tents and I slept in my car. I stayed the whole three days.”
Singletary said the shifts were eight hours long. She said her main job was to help with coffee and assisting with the wood.
“You have two to three pieces of wood going in the kiln every two to three minutes,” she said. “Last year it rained Friday so over the entire weekend it was wet and soggy. It seems to rain every time.”
Funk said the department will be busy making the pottery that is to be loaded into the kiln.
“We will probably make a couple hundred,” he said. “Our guest may bring some as well. We then have to have wads of refractory clay, that does not burn, for the bottom of the pottery.”
After the wood firing is complete, Funk said the students and staff are able to take their work home.
“We have to let the pottery cool for a week and clean the kiln,” he said. “Since everybody makes their own piece, they can keep it or chunk it.”
Pritchett said the creative process is what makes the wood firing fun.
“There is always a little area of mystery and a few surprises when they open up the kiln and see the results,” he said. “There is always a little mystery of what you’re going to get.”
Funk said the wood burning has been at Tyler Junior College for about three years. He says he hopes to continue the process.
“I did all of my grad work firing and I love it,” he said. “We have really experienced people involved. I plan to continue doing it hopefully four times a year.”
Funk said he will be organizing a firing with the students and guests soon.
“This is my first semester here, so there are a lot of preparations that need to be made,” he said. “I have to get a lot of wood and supplies and there’s quite a bit of work to be done. We will most likely fire in February.”