MAILED: Aug. 2, 2000
This summer six University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire ceramics students, along with students from UW-Madison, built a wood-fired kiln on Picnic Point at UW-Madison from a design by Mike Weber, an assistant professor of art at UW-Eau Claire. Three weeks later, Weber and the students returned for a continuous two-day firing of the kiln, which held approximately 250 pieces.
The kiln, patterned after the Japanese kiln called an anagama, was made of firebrick and covered with clay and dirt. The main difference between a traditional anagama and the one constructed at UW-Madison is size. "It's only 10 feet long, so it takes just two days to fire and two days to cool making it a great teaching instrument, because students can see their results sooner," Weber said.
The project was a result of the collaboration of Weber with UW-Madison's Bruce Breckenridge. Weber, who studied under Breckenridge and earned two degrees at UW-Madison, was asked by Breckenridge to design the anagama on Picnic Point.
"It gives the students an opportunity to learn a very advanced firing technique," Weber said. "It really motivates students to another level to take art seriously, and the experience also gives them a leg up on a lot of students who apply for graduate schools."
Katie Stellpflug, a senior ceramics major who was among the UW-Eau Claire students who helped build and fire the kiln at Picnic Point, became interested in wood firing after going to Weber's 1998 summer workshop in Bayfield County. "The teamwork, camaraderie and especially the way in which the ceramics turn out are all very intriguing to me," Stellpflug said.
So intriguing that Stellpflug and two UW-Eau Claire graduates, Jesse Albrecht and Jarrett Moe, decided to build an anagama of their own near Mondovi. "We have done five firings in the past year and are getting more and more knowledgeable in the wood-firing process," Stellpflug said. "It's very exciting."
It's this building and firing experience that led to the students' involvement in the project at UW-Madison. "It was a great opportunity to work side by side with other ceramics students and professors as well as to see the beautiful results of our work," Stellpflug said.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Aug. 4, 2000