George School has joined an exclusive club in the world of ceramic arts, as one of only a handful of educational institutions with its own wood-fired kiln. Construction of the kiln was completed earlier this year; however, the inaugural fire was not lit until October as part of the festivities of Harvest Weekend.
The first run, which took nearly two days of round the clock fire tending, brought students, teachers, and alumni together. All volunteers took shifts feeding the fire, an activity that was required every fifteen minutes of the burn.
The effort to acquire the new kiln and arrange the first burn was headed by Amedeo Salamoni, ceramics and sculpture teacher. Amedeo had a variety of reasons for wanting the new kiln, one was for students to experience the true energy output required to create their pieces, as opposed to the kiln in the classroom that operates by the push of a button.
“The wood-fired method dates back to when pottery was first fired in pits, in holes dug in the ground,” Amedeo said. “This technique also exposes students to a different type of firing. Reduction firing brings more depth and more variation to their ceramic work.”
Ceramics created with the wood-fired kiln are glazed naturally by the ash of the wood, explained Amedeo. The pieces that came out of the maiden run resulted in a variety of glazes and textures, such as a bust completed by Barbie Walsh ’19, which she created in her sculpture class.
Grant Kind ’19 also ran pieces through the new kiln and was thrilled with the result.
“The wood firing was one of the most magnificent and pleasing experiences in my ceramics journey thus far. I put in two pieces, one of which was a bowl that Amedeo placed on the first row in the kiln. It turned out to be a variety of dark browns and melting tans that covered the entire bowl. It exceeded my expectations in many ways. It was indescribable. I would like to thank Amedeo for making it all possible.”
Judy Bartella, a ceramics faculty member, said the pieces created in the new kiln are receiving a good reception. “I’ve had a lot of my students say that their favorite piece is a wood-fired piece.”
Amedeo plans to re-ignite the kiln again in April, and at least three times per term thereafter.
Amedeo is an authority on wood-fired ceramics and published Wood-Fired Ceramics: 100 Contemporary Artists in 2014. The book is comprised of over 500 color photographs and features the work of 100 ceramic artists who still use the sometimes unpredictable method of wood-firing.