UM student artists on fire

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The first thing Rachel Martin wanted to do after getting home from art class Saturday was take a long, cold shower.

After all, working a four-hour shift at the University of Montevallo&8217;s anagama kiln isn&8217;t for the faint of heart.

Temperatures in the &8220;firebox&8221; hover around 2,400 degrees &045;&045; plenty hot enough to fry an egg and fire a pot to cook it in.

The rare 40-foot Japanese wood kiln was loaded May 20 with more than 800 pieces of ceramic art.

All last week, UM students stood watch over their pots and sculptures, continually stoking the flames in 4-hour shifts.

&8220;The dedication these artists have to their craft is amazing,&8221; said Martin, an art major from Birmingham. &8220;Knowing you&8217;ve had a small role in this is the best part, besides going home and taking a cool shower.&8221;

UM Art Professor Scott Meyer built the kiln on campus in 2002, based on his research and travel abroad.

Since then, it has been fired 10 times &8212; always in May and again during the regular school year.

The kiln basically operates like a big oven in which clay is baked and allowed to cool. The firing process lasts 100 hours and uses more than 1800 cubic feet of wood.

Meyer said it&8217;s really rare for a university to have a kiln on campus, especially one that is operated by undergraduate students.

&8220;It takes a lifetime to feel like you have any knowledge of this,&8221; said Meyer. &8220;It is important students learn this as early as they can.&8221;

In fact, students from as far as the School for American Crafts in Rochester, N.Y. came to Montevallo to have their own work fired.

&8220;It&8217;s amazing, despite the travel and heat, what happens in these two weeks,&8221; said Martin. &8220;It&8217;s really been a learning process.&8221;

UM student artists like Martin will get their first glimpse at their handiwork when the kiln is unloaded Saturday at noon, after being allowed to cool this week