Monday, February 23, 2009

Consider the object: Kiln gods

A small collection of kiln gods

Attended constantly by some, and scorned by others, the kiln god is a unique tradition among ceramicists. Usually a small sculpture placed on a kiln to assure good luck in a firing, they can be simple or complex, as illustrated in the above photo.

I'm not sure where this tradition started, but I do know that every kiln I've ever visited, from a large industrial kiln at a university to humble electric kilns on porches to old-fashioned groundhog kilns have had them.

I personally genuflect rather heavily at the altar of the kiln god and spend way too much time making them, probably time I should be spending creating. Whenever I was running a kiln firing I'd have all my assistants make kiln gods and then I'd judge the best to put into the next firing. I'm kind of a fascist when it come to firings... but that's another story. I've had several people offer to buy mine, but I have a distaste for buying or selling them, and I amassed the above ones which are not mine through trades. The center piece of the above photo I believe was one I made for my penultimate and final firings of the salt kiln at my university before we tore it down. Others were collaborations with artists who were helping me fire the kiln.

Semi-related: The Kiln God National Exhibition