Ceramics Studio of the Department of Art invited to present at World Fire in Celebration of Earth Day

April 17, 2023

The Department of Art’s Ceramics studio at Clemson University is presenting World-Fire: A Project Invitation on April 18-22, with the lighting of the Catenary kiln occurring Tuesday, April 18 at 1 p.m.

Unfired ceramics ready for kiln firing

Zoom, Skype, and other similar platforms have redefined teaching, learning, and general communication considering the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This access now allows for remote events to be accessible, creating an opportunity for wood firers to share techniques and approaches in real-time.

The kiln firing is under the direction of Art Faculty in Ceramics, John Cummings this year. A community of art faculty, students and alumni have kept wood-firing kilns in the Experimental Forest near the civil engineering research facility for almost 20 years. At the opposite end of an Anagama kiln is a Catenary kiln named after its arched opening, which is somewhat smaller in size.

A Catenary kiln is used for firing ceramics and is known for its energy efficiency and sustainable design. This kiln is built with a curved shape, which allows it to distribute heat more evenly and efficiently than traditional rectangular or square kilns. One of the critical ways a Catenary kiln is considered sustainable and earth-friendly is through its use of renewable energy sources. This kiln can be fired using wood, a renewable and carbon-neutral fuel source that does not produce the same greenhouse gas emissions as fossil fuels.

Additionally, the curved design of the Catenary kiln reduces the amount of energy required to maintain consistent firing temperatures. The curvature of the kiln allows for more even heat distribution, reducing the need for frequent adjustments and energy-intensive cooling and reheating cycles.

The World Fire event allows artists as far away as Taiwan to participate via Skype. While there is no single philosophical view that everyone shares, firing kilns simultaneously around the world involves adopting new perspectives, pursuing creative goals beyond tradition, and engaging in experimentation.

Cummings, a ceramic artist from the Asheville, NC area, obtained a B.S. from the University of Southern Indiana and an M.F.A. from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, M.S. Following his graduate studies, he served as an artist assistant for Jun Kaneko for three years, where he gained expertise in creating extremely large works. He is a Ceramics Art Faculty member at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.

World-Fire: A Project Invitation Q&A
What kilns will be used by the World Fire participants?
All participants will be using an Anagama kiln except Clemson’s Ceramic Studio will be firing their Catenary kiln.

What is a Catenary kiln?
A Catenary kiln is a type of wood-fired kiln with an arched roof shaped like a catenary curve. The catenary curve is a naturally occurring shape formed when a chain is suspended between two points, creating a strong and self-supporting curve. In the case of a Catenary kiln, the arch provides structural strength to the kiln while also allowing for more even distribution of heat and smoke throughout the chamber. This type of kiln is commonly used in pottery and ceramics to create unique surface effects and finishes on the pieces being fired.

What are the plans for the work that is fired in the Catenary kiln?
Some of the work will be used for end of the year class assignments, while most of the work will be available for sale at the popular annual Spring Ceramic Sale.

When will the Catenary kiln be opened to reveal the work?
The kiln will be opened Monday, April 24, revealing the most recent work of art students, just in time for the Spring Ceramic Sale.

When is the Spring Ceramic Sale?
Wednesday, April 26, 2023, 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the Lee Gallery Hallway.

Reference Clemson World Magazine’s “All Fired Up”

Unfired ceramics ready for kiln firing