[Clayart] building kilns at Hay Creek

John Post via Clayart clayart at lists.clayartworld.com
Tue Jul 7 02:10:56 EDT 2015

When I drove into Mel's Hay Creek farm this summer, the base of the new kiln was just getting started.  As I was getting out of the car Mel said "Hey John, wanna help build a kiln?" After a few minutes of hugs and greetings from friends I was stacking bricks and collaboratively solving problems we ran into along the way. The day flew by and at the end of it, we had a kiln.

The kiln is new, but the brick it was built from was all recycled. We hauled it over to the kiln site in a wheel barrow from various places around Mel's property.

The kiln building project at Hay Creek could not have come at a better time for me. 

This week I am having a slab poured for a similar kiln at my home in Arizona along with some other concrete work we want done in the back yard. We got the best price on the job by bundling all of our future building plans into one bid. I have to get the natural gas line run to the kiln site and am making plans for what kind of structure I want over the kiln this summer. Then next summer I will build and fire the kiln.

What I enjoy about being around Mel is how quickly he makes decisions and the way he is always moving forward. That and I think he is one the funniest people I know - he tells a great story:)

When we were building the brick roof on the new kiln, the stack from the chimney was in the way of running the metal rods to tie all of the kiln roof together.  Every one who was around the kiln tossed out some ideas on how to deal with this issue. Mel had just built the stack and its base the day before, but removing the stack seemed like the best option to keep the project rolling - I can still hear mel saying "Take it down, we'll rebuild it after."  No mussing or fussing around - just problem solving and moving forward - getting stuff done - even if it meant re-working something that was already put together.

That kiln fired to cone 6 with just a fiber roof on the first day and some really nice pots came out of it.  After the roof was bricked it hit cone 10 in a later firing.

Mel really knows how to get things done and keep a project moving. What was once several piles of brick around his place is now another kiln at Hay Creek - and in the process a couple of us who haven't built Minnesota Flat Top kilns got to see how one goes together by doing it.

There's lots of talk about rubrics, standards and student learning objectives in my day job of being an art teacher. But I am still a big believer in the act of "learning by doing".  And schools today keep dropping programs where kids get to do things. It's as if they want kids to just think abstractly about things all day without ever getting to work with their hands.  You know, teach 'em stuff that's on the standardized test. Instead of getting to take a shop class in 7th grade, my son had to take a class where they completed "learning modules" on the computer. What kid could build or fix anything around the house with tools after completing a "learning module."

I have a potter friend who teaches high school art in Texas. We had never met in person until this past weekend. She planned a driving trip through the West with her 5-year-old son and so I told her she was welcome to stay with my wife and I for a few days. The two times when her little boy was the most involved (not on his i-pad) was when we built a fire in the evening and let him add sticks to it and when we took him to the creek and let him swim, explore and throw big rocks into it.  He didn't need any directions on how to interact and do things outdoors in nature - he already knew what to do because that's how kids learn about the world - by doing. 

So thanks for that great experience Mel, I learned so much from it.

all the best,

John Post

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