Ceramics students to build kiln

Taylor Harrison

WKU ceramics students want a new kiln — so they’re taking the matter into their own hands.

The students are beginning to build a wood-fueled kiln as part of a ceramics course, which they will later get to use to fire their work.

Lindsay Oesterritter, assistant professor in the art department, said they are making a train kiln, which looks like the engine of a train. She said wood-fired ceramics is in her research area.

The kiln is scheduled to be built over two weekends, Oct. 10-14 and Oct. 18-21. Oesterritter said a kiln building expert, Ted Neal from Ball State University, will be coming to help build the kiln.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to learn,” Oesterritter said.

The kiln is scheduled for its first firing, when the students will get the chance to use the kiln to finish their ceramics, at the end of November. 

The firing should last about 30 to 45 hours and the students will work in shifts.

Oesterritter said there are multiple reasons for building the new kiln.

“One is, right now we have a gas kiln and we have electric kilns, so it’s offering kind of an alternative atmosphere and firing process for educational purposes,” she said.

She said another reason is that wood is a renewable resource. The students will be doing the building because it is helpful for them to see how the entire process works.

Oesterritter’s students are eager to get the chance to build the kiln.

Beaver Dam senior Lauren Taylor-Farris said the chance to work on the kiln was “one of the most exciting things ever.”

Taylor-Farris, a ceramics major, also said she first got involved with pottery because clay is limitless.

“There is so much you can do with clay to manipulate the media and it’s one of those things that you can never really get bored with,” Taylor-Farris said.

Taylor-Farris said Oesterritter has had this in the works for a while and she is glad it’s happening while she is in the class.

“It’s very rare for an undergrad to be able to help build a kiln,” Taylor-Farris said.

Somerset junior Phil Claunch will also get to work on the kiln. 

“This is actually my first time being a part of building a kiln, but I’ve been a part of a couple of firings out of a wood kiln,” Claunch said. 

With a wood-fueled kiln, Claunch said they will work as a group because there are a lot of jobs to do, such as checking on the wood, stacking wood and stoking the kiln. 

“All these students are going to be a part of something that doesn’t seem like a big deal right now, but it’s going to bring a lot of attention to the ceramics department at Western,” Claunch said.