TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Ceramics students at the College of Southern Idaho have a brand-new, rare resource.
Thanks to ceramics professor Mayumi Kiefer, the students now have access to a unique type of kiln called an Itte Koi. It's the only one of its kind in the state, and one of only two or three in the entire country.
"So the flame is going and it's coming back and then escaping from the chimney above you," explained Kiefer.
The kiln uses a unique method of heating pottery pieces. Rather than having them rest on a grate, they're placed on the floor of the kiln. From there, the heat from burning wood moves around them in a circular motion.
Flames escape from the chimney of the Itte Koi kiln on the College of Southern Idaho Campus. Photo Courtesy Mayumi Kiefer.
"(The pottery sits) directly on the floor, the wood goes and burns, and the heat going up and escapes from the chimney. The style of this kiln isn't usual," Kiefer said.
Kiefer built CSI's Itte Koi kiln by hand, with some help from friends in the art program.
Students like Bob Sojka say it's a rare opportunity to work with unique equipment.
"For me the fact that we've had the opportunity to use a number of different kinds of kilns that treat the atmosphere inside the heated air differently," Sojka said.
Firing the pottery is a long and tireless process. Someone has to be there to tend the flame constantly and monitor the kiln's temperature. Kiefer will be watching the kiln, hard at work, until the process is done--a total of around 36 hours.
"I'm really looking forward to it," said Steven Buck, one of Kiefer's students. "I have a few pieces that will be in there this first firing."
Kiefer says all her effort is worth it to help her students explore the world of ceramics.
"The bottom line is, for the student to understand how many different things they can experience, to choose what is best for them," Kiefer said. "Everyone has a different idea of beauty."