The Backpack Kiln

The Backpack Kiln is a wood-fueled kiln in a backpack whose design is an amplification of the physical and social aspects of chiminea ovens in an effort to produce the most portable and fastest firing kiln / hearth possible. Its construction was made possible by a Cattaraugus County Council for the Arts 'Artist in Community Grant', which is Funded by the New York State Council on the Arts decentralization program, and which awards $2500 to a non-student resident in Allegany, Cattraugus or Chautauqua Counties to conduct projects that will engage and enrich their community.

Construction of the Backpack Kiln took place from January – March of 2016 and upon completion its maiden firing was held as the event ‘Something S'more’ which occurred as part of the opening reception festivities of the Across the Table, Across the Land exhibition that was curated by Michael Strand and Namita Gupta Wiggers for the 50th Annual NCECA Conference in Kansas City, MO. Something S'more looked the opening reception as an opportunity to prop up the content of the exhibition which was a survey of artists projects over the year prior that had used pairings of ceramics and food as a vehicles social engagement. Prompts regarding overarching themes and questions of the exhibition were presented along with images and artifacts from the showcased events, and Something S'more created an example of the work being discussed as an opportunity to both experience it and discuss it further. An analog speaker/cup with commemorative sprigs detailing the event was the only object fired in the kiln during the event, and the entire event was recorded on an old iPhone. Following the firing the iPhone is now playing the recording through the speaker; the object retelling the story of its production, and presenting the critical discussion of itself and the event it supported.

The original intention of the kiln was to facilitate a series of firings that would serve both as an anthropological survey of the non-student residents living in Alfred, NY and a geological survey as mud puddles at the site of each firing were to be used as the glaze on the ceramics in the kiln. Unfortunately, the kiln is both too heavy to practically carry on one’s back, and can not fire hot enough to melt the intended ‘puddle glazes’, and so the CCCA ACG grant project, ‘Glisten’ was held as a series of events in my backyard with my neighbors, which resulted in the production of ceramics which participants took home with them, and an audio archive of recordings from the firings which is available at the Alfred Public Library and on SoundCloud.