Ceramics students fire up wood kiln for 54 hours
Smoke billowed from behind Wightman Hall until Sunday morning as ceramic students used a wood burning kiln to fire pottery.
The wood kiln, which is located on the southwest side of Wightman Hall, burned from 7 a.m. Friday to 7:30 p.m. Sunday and reached 2,400 degrees, said ceramics Assistant Professor Greg Stahly.
“The only fuel source is wood. There is no natural gas,” Stahly said. “We are looking at 48, potentially 50, 52 hours of firing time. That’s people here 24 hours a day for that entire time.”
Stahly said using a wood kiln involves a very specific firing process.
“The work that goes into the kiln doesn’t have any glaze on it, so it’s just raw clay in there,” Stahly said. “Throughout the course of the firing, wood ash gets deposited on the work and at about 2,400 degrees that actually melts and turns into a glaze. That’s called natural ash glazing.”
Zach Taylor, a senior from Mayville and an advanced ceramics student working the kiln, said the kiln will burn close to eight to 10 cords of wood.
Stahly said the wood came from a local sawmill and local trees cleared for building.
Taylor, who said he hoped to do wood fires for a living, said the firing was a good community experience and chance for ceramic students to interact.
“The thing I love about it is this is how it all started—it was all in a wood fire pit,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of nice to go back to that—to step away from the technology of electric kilns or even gas kilns. I just like going back to the old way of doing it. It may be a little bit harder and hotter, but it’s a lot more fun.”
CMU alumna and Dearborn Heights native Sadie Misiuk worked the kiln as the stoker, wood loader, said the key was to watch the smoke coming out of the chimney.
“It’s very intense (to work the kiln),” Misiuk said. “The heat will get you. This is my third shift of the day. I started working at three in the morning.”