Kiln to enhance KSS ceramics classes [UPDATED]Published 11:04am Wednesday, October 17, 2012 Updated 11:20am Wednesday, October 17, 2012
While most high school students will work with clay in art classes, Kennedy Secondary School students will have the opportunity to have their clay creations fired the same way the Japanese did thousands of years ago.
The process is called raku firing, and in order to make it possible at KSS, the art department needed a generous donation from a local business and a grant from the 544 Education Foundation.
Bank of the West donated an old electric kiln to the art department, and that gave art teacher Peder Butenhoff an idea. He decided he would use the donated electric kiln as the base to build a raku kiln.
Raku firing is different than what most think of when they think of using a kiln. The ancient Japanese style involves getting the clay red hot at about 1,200 degrees and then removing it and placing it in containers filled with organic materials.
“It’s a unique method,” said Butenhoff. “You don’t ever know what it’s going to turn out looking like because of the type of glaze you use and what kind of matter it sits in all affect the end result.”
If the clay is placed in a container with banana peels, the clay often turns orange or copper colored. If copper is in the container, the clay might turn blue or green, Butenhoff said.
The 544 Education Foundation gave the art department a $1,200 grant to convert the electric kiln into a raku kiln. Some of the converting process will be done by Butenhoff’s advanced pottery class. The raku kiln needs to be outside, and it is powered by propane.
The grant will also help the art department pay for the specific type clay and glaze needed for raku firing.
The goal is to have the kiln ready to go by the end of this school year, and Butenhoff said he also wants to offer all residents an opportunity to use it through community education.
“The 544 Foundation is really a wonderful organization,” he said. “Our funding is really minimum, so most of what we get goes to day-to-day supplies. It’s nice to have grants like this so we can offer new things to students and the community.”