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Brick by brick by brick

New pottery kilns almost ready to fire up

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/21/16

ELY – The Vermilion Community College art department will soon have a new pottery-firing facility.

Workers from Master Kiln Builders are on campus this month building the new facility, located …

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Brick by brick by brick

New pottery kilns almost ready to fire up

Posted

ELY – The Vermilion Community College art department will soon have a new pottery-firing facility.

Workers from Master Kiln Builders are on campus this month building the new facility, located adjacent to the art department classrooms on the north side of the classroom building.

Art instructor Chris Koivisto said the project took a long time to materialize but hopes to have the new teaching tool operational by early October at the latest.

“We had some delays in funding and approving the project, but we wanted to have a state-of-the-art facility that would be in use for many years to come,” he said. “We’ll have the best art college facility north of the Twin Cities when we are done with it.”

The stand-alone building is open to the elements but will not limit the work that can be done. A wood-fired kiln, along with a salt or soda-fueled kiln, will be available to use by students for a variety of projects.

A blast-furnace is also part of the new studio, which allows for casting of bronze, aluminum and cast iron. “We are looking for scrap cast iron, like from old hot water radiators, and scrap aluminum,” Koivisto said.. “I don’t think we’ll get much scrap bronze, as that’s pretty valuable.”

Master Kiln Builders, of Minneapolis, was founded by potter Donovan Palmquist. Since 1996, he and his crew have built over 350 kilns for schools, individual artists and institutions throughout the United States. Projects have ranged from a one-cubic-foot salt kiln for a private studio to eleven kilns at a major university.

“We are using about 5,000 bricks for the two kilns here at VCC,” Palmquist said. For this project, he is assisted by John McMahon and Judah Birkeland.

Palmquist said he is well-versed in the essentials of kiln design and construction, including refractory, metal framework, plumbing, ventilation and electrical. “This is a well-designed and efficient kiln space,” he said. “This will be a nice addition to the art department here,” he said.

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