Gavilan College Ceramics department installs a new kiln to support ceramics and 3-D studentsby Jan Janes on Jul 9, 2021
After substantial research and a five month wait, the new kiln for the Ceramics
department arrives on the Gavilan College Campus. Because of COVID-19 facilities
restrictions, students were not on campus to cheer its arrival.
“This is the industry standard,” said Max Rain, Ceramics instructor. “This version is the upgrade from the kiln being replaced.”
The older kiln, a commercial production kiln that worked for years with consistent results, could no longer be trusted to fire the colors correctly. With a log of 790 firings, it wore out from the wear and tear of repeatedly rising to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. Things that wear out in a kiln include bricks, electric relays, metal, elements and wiring.
Lonnie Terrill, Gavilan College Shipping and Receiving, and Eusebio Lozano, with
Clay Planet, where the kiln was ordered, unwrap the new kiln. It will be completely
dismantled, from the hinged lid and electrical panel to the three attached rings of bricks.
A kiln, firing at 2000 to 2500 degrees Fahrenheit, absorbs the gases that glazes and clays release, passing them through an exhaust vent. To perform effectively, a kiln must reliably control the atmosphere inside. When a kiln fails to maintain a specific temperature, vibrant red glazes can turn ugly green, and vibrant blues can turn snot yellow. Not the outcomes that ceramics students expect.
Terrill and Lozano stack the tiers of the kiln’s brick rings in reverse order before
transporting them into the kiln room.
In addition to this new kiln, Rain has rebuilt an existing kiln as a soda kiln. He has also repaired the department's large kiln, which must be bricked in with each firing.
Sophie Lastra, a Gavilan ceramics student who studied with Jane Rekedal, volunteered to help rebuild the kilns.
“We learned how to fix all the holes, and we installed a damper system,” said Rain. “Now it works fine.”
Lastra now works as the kiln tech at Cabrillo College, running the lab.
Lozano places the base of the new kiln on the new stand, preparing it for the
three sections and the cover.
Rain started as full time Ceramics instructor at Gavilan College in 2018, when long-time Ceramics instructor Jane Rekedal retired. She created a class repeatability structure, and returning students served as mentors for beginning students. She also built a community for ceramics.
“Painting or drawing can be solitary,” said Rain. “The cool thing is, clay is communal. Ceramics needs a lot of people, the more people the better.” Established students share their knowledge with beginning students.
The kiln’s modular construction allows it to be disassembled, moved and reassembled.
This eases passage to fit through narrow spaces often found in educational facilities.
Rain earned his BFA in Spatial Art from San José University and his MFA in Art from UCLA, and loves the medium of clay. The Ceramics program at Gavilan offers multiple classes, and students create works hand building and throwing on the wheel. The Ceramics studio offers seven different types of clay, and the department mixes many of their own glazes.
Terrill and Lozano bring the third and final brick ring of the kiln to its new place,
buckling each section to the one below.
A student interested in Ceramics at Gavilan College could repeat a sequence of classes and be able to produce work in the program for at least two years.
The cover of the kiln is placed back on top, and its hinges are reinstalled. The
lid weighs 100 pounds, and seals the kiln while it fires the ceramic contents.
The hinged device allows for easy lifting to open and close.
As a friend of artists from his days at UCLA, Rain understands the hustle of making art for a living. “Teaching was always the plan,” he said.
He has worked as a TA at university and at high schools. “I love teaching at community college, where you have the entire gamut of age and background – GECA, vets, ethnic diversity, and community members.”
Lozano reattaches the hinged control panel and reconnects the wiring.
“We are looking at building the relationship between Gavilan and the area high schools,” said Rain. Along with Lastra, he has presented demonstrations at Sobrato High School and other schools to increase awareness of the Gavilan College Ceramics program.
With its fire-engine red control panel and mirrored, stainless steel exterior,
the 9.9 cubic foot kiln is ready to fire student work.
“This kiln is the best of the best,” said Rain. “It is a production kiln made to be fired around the clock. We expect this new equipment to be operating in the Ceramics department for the next 15 to 20 years.”