Natural Kiln Strikes A Chord With Potters
The 7-foot-tall handmade kiln was built by Eva Edleson and Nick Friedman using only clay, sand and water.(Times photos by Jeremiah Reed)
TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, N.C. Natural construction and handmade pizzas came to a head recently at The Duckpond Pottery, thanks to the combined efforts of two artisans.
Eva Edleson and Nick Friedman toasted the completion of a large kiln, made entirely from natural materials, by inviting the public to join in a celebratory evening of food and music.
Edleson, owner of firespeaking.com along with her husband, Max, came to Brevard to teach workshops on April 14 and 15 about constructing kilns from local materials using a technique called natural building.
Natural building involves construction using materials found locally. Low building costs, environmental conservatism and sustainability are just a few of the benefits to natural building.
Edleson travels around the country and occasionally overseas, doing workshops and teaching people her craft. She said the feeling of accomplishment people get from creating things from natural materials was what she enjoyed most.
“It’s been a rewarding path for me because people feel so empowered when they build something with their hands, and they have a lot of pride when they connect to their local area by using the available natural resources,” she said.
Friedman, owner of the The Duckpond Pottery shop on the Greenville Highway, said people like Edleson initially got him involved in natural building, and he’s never looked back.
“The last few years I’ve become a total convert to using natural materials in building,” he said. “It’s a very economical way to build, its environmentally healthy and, for me personally, it’s a very natural extension of the ceramics work that I’ve done a lot of in the past.”
Friedman said while Edleson’s workshop attracted mostly local cliental, it also brought people from outside the area.
“It was mostly people from Brevard who attended the workshop, but there were also people from Charleston and Charlotte. Really, it was just people who were interested in learning more about natural building,” he said.
The kiln completed by the pair was roughly 7 feet tall and took a weekend to build.
Edleson did the primary construction while Friedman stylized the oven to look like a guitar. Edleson said kilns could be built fairly quickly or could take longer depending on how ornate you want them to be.
One reason natural building is so unique is because every region has different indigenous materials to work with, according to Edleson.
“Most places that I’ve been in the U.S. and other countries have utilized clay, but not everywhere has clay available, so you have to work with the materials naturally available in that particular area,” she said.
Edelson said clay was by far the most adaptive material she worked with and could be used for any number of purposes, from flooring to plaster walls.
While Edleson specializes in creating naturally made kilns, she said she has constructed several smaller buildings with natural materials. Homeowners have also hired her to remodel the interior of their homes, giving it a more organic feel.
Friedman said the practice of constructing homes using natural building techniques has stood the test of time both locally and abroad.
“This is the way people used to build hundreds of years ago,” he said. “If you go look at the Tudor houses in Biltmore Village, all those are wattle-and-daub construction.
Edleson (right), of firespeaking.com, spoke and answered questions from guests about natural construction and the process of building the kiln.
“There are homes on coastal England that are 300 or 400 years old and have huge market value based not only on their history but also the construction quality.”
Edleson’s workshop attracted a few contractors and architects, who were all taken aback by the potential in natural building, according to Friedman.
“There were quite a few builders and architects who were at the workshop,” he said. “At the end of the day it really opened their eyes. In big cities like Vancouver and Portland, people are already starting to recognize that this is a very viable way to build.”
Friedman said he planned to complete more projects using natural construction and hoped to see the technique spread throughout the area.
“This is hopefully the first of many projects here,” he said. “I’d like to see the shop become a showcase for natural building and I’d love to see these kinds of skills used all over Brevard.”