The Detroit Noborigama AKA "The Salty Dog"
In the summer of 2010 the CCS Crafts department moved to a new location on campus and that fall ‘kiln building’ was the focus of the semester as we built all new kilns for the school, including a small Manabigama wood fired kiln, which is how I became interested in wood firing. In April of 2011, I was approved to deconstruct the salt kiln that had been left behind in the move and slated for demolition. My proposal was to design and build a new kiln from it's bricks one mile north of campus at Fortress Studios LLC, an artist owned and operated work/live space. To fund the additional materials and tools needed to build the kiln I ran a successful Kickstarter croudfunding campaign, and received the funding that August. As the kiln began to take shape it became increasingly apparent that the most exciting aspect of the project was the roll the neighborhood's understanding and involvement would play in the project's future success. I taught a ceramics class at an after school program for kids in North End Neighborhood; they were able to participate in the first firing and also assisted as crucial diplomats to neighborhood where the kiln was located. A vast majority of the wood needed to fire the kiln was collected from the blocks immediately surrounding it; meeting neighbors, removing their dead trees, and inviting them to attend the firings in the process.
We first fired the kiln in November of 2011, and it was immediately clear that the ceramics fired in it were only the functional byproducts of a project that was in actuality an interactive site-specific installation and performance of this massive united effort. In the spring of 2012 I received a NCECA Regina Brown Undergraduate Student Fellowship that would facilitate a continued investigation of kiln and its potential relationship to the community and the climate of art marking in Detroit. That fellowship ended with The Subsidized Pottery Sale.
The Detroit Noborigama is still there and in use to this day, and if you would like to be involved with upcoming firings of it please contact Fortress Studios LLC: www.fortresssudiosdetroit.com - 7332 Oakland Ave, Detroit, MI 48211 - (313) 333 8512
The Public Subsidized Pottery Sale
The Public Subsidized Pottery Sale was made possible by my receipt of the NCECA Regina Brown Undergraduate Student Fellowship. The fellowship grant paid for my rent and materials so that I could sell the pottery made during the time of the grant's support in the Public Subsidized Pottery Sale. The sale was open only to residents within a one-mile radius of the Detroit Noborigama wood kiln and all of the pots were sold for one dollar each with the rule of one pot per person. The project utilized the processes of wood firing and the functional objects produced from them in an effort to bridge cultural and socioeconomic barriers in Detroit's North End neighborhood. By stamping the vessels “Made in North End”, gathering the wood necessary to fire the kiln from the neighborhood, and holding the kiln firings as public events, I worked to make the process and objects relevant to the immediate community. The sale was advertised by crude hand painted signs (a tradition in Detroit) and hung on the gate around the lot where it would occur and I distributed fliers distributed by foot throughout the neighborhood.
All of this seemed quite effective and worthwhile as the last pushpin on the map of pottery recipients marked the sale done.