Premier ceramics artist in country to headline 'Raku Rodeo' at FHSU this weekend

University's ceramics students built new kilns for special firing technique

4/13/04 kb

NOTE TO EDITORS, NEWS DIRECTORS -- This is to alert you to the photographic and video opportunities to a unique event for this area that will take place this weekend. Because of limited space, the public is not invited to most of the weekend's activities, but the public is invited to an exhibition, from 3-5 p.m. Sunday, April 18, of the art works that will be produced during the weekend.

HAYS, KS -- Paul Soldner, who is perhaps the most famous living ceramic artist in the United States or the western world, will conduct a workshop in raku glazing and firing at Fort Hays State University on April 16, 17, 18.

"We are calling the event our 'Raku Rodeo,' " said Linda Ganstrom, associate professor of art at FHSU. "Paul will share his slides of raku surfaces, demonstrate his approach to mixing glazes and glaze bisque pieces and he will lead a glazing and firing participation workshop during the weekend."

Raku (pronounced RAH, as in "rack" plus koo), said Ganstrom, is a low-fire technique where the ceramic pieces are pulled red-hot out of the kiln, while the glaze is still molten. The pieces are then smoked in something combustible, such as newspaper or sawdust, transforming the color of the clay and the glaze. In traditional ceramics, the pieces are heated and then cooled before being taken from the kiln.

The kilns were built during an all-day workshop conducted March 30 by Conrad Snider, visiting artist from Newton, KS, and Hanna Eastin, his assistant. He taught the FHSU ceramics students how to build a safe and efficient forced air burner for a kiln.

"We built two new, gas-fired raku kilns, which give you some way to access the pieces while they are still hot," said Ganstrom. "One is called a top hat kiln. That one, you can remove the top of the kiln, or lift it up and put the combustibles in.

"For the other one, we took an old electric kiln in which the elements no longer worked and converted it. We are recycling and reusing," she said. "We built the burner for the top hat kiln ourselves," said Ganstrom. "It's all part of teaching students to be resourceful and inventive and to learn about kiln building."

The kilns are located in the breezeway between the Sculpture Studio and the foundry, at the west end of Rarick Hall on the FHSU campus.

Soldner, 82, is considered the father of American raku and is the most famous ceramic artist in the United States, and probably in the western world, said Ganstrom.

He splits the year between Claremont, CA, where he has taught at Claremont College for most of his life, and Anderson Ranch near Snowmass, CO. He has conducted hundreds of workshops and exhibitions. Ganstrom said he also has a line of ceramic equipment.

In addition to students and others who have signed up for the workshops locally, Ganstrom said, there will be 20 artists from six other states attending. Because of limited space for workshop participants, the only public event will be the exhibition and sale of art works from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 18, in the ceramics lab, Rarick Hall, room 123. Soldner will also be on hand for the exhibit and sale.

Ganstrom said the best times for news media will probably be Friday afternoon, all day Saturday and perhaps Sunday morning. Because of Soldner's age, she said, the weekend will go according to his schedule. In addition to instructing on firing and glazing techniques, he will also be conducting slide shows and teaching other aspects of the ceramic arts, said Ganstrom.

For other information, or to make arrangements, contact Ganstrom by phone at (785) 628-4273, or by e-mail at

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