Northland College has a new outdoor DownDraft reduction gas kiln, thanks in part to a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts. The kiln was built as part of a workshop organized by Assistant Professor of Art Lauren Duffy.
The kiln is a welcome addition to the college’s art program. “It creates an incredible opportunity to fire a kiln differently,” said Duffy. “Doing a reduction firing gives you a different glaze effect than just an electric kiln. It creates opportunities to make different clay and glaze effects, use paper or organic materials like flowers and having it burn out, and be able to fire larger ceramic works.”
The kiln is constructed with a double layer of highly insulating “soft brick” that reflects almost all heat back into the kiln. Additionally, the down draft action is a convection process, with heat rising and then being forced back down to exit. This leads to a more efficient use of fuel and better heat retention.
The regional community also is benefiting from the new kiln. Community members participated in a week- long workshop with master kiln builder Ted Neal, an art professor at Ball State University, who led the building of the kiln and gave a public lecture on the process as well as his ceramics work.
Looking ahead, area residents will have more opportunities to use the kiln, including during the college’s community ceramics class. “I’m very much about the community having a part in what we do,” said Duffy. Students from several local schools will continue to be invited to create works fired in the kiln and learn more about the process during the next school year. The art program also will work with the college’s Indigenous Cultures Center to involve artists from area tribal nations.