PLIMOTH PLANTATION DEMOLISHES ’17TH CENTURY’ POTTERY KILN

Very Sad News from Massachusetts.

I am told that in the last week of April Plimoth Plantation quietly demolished the kiln we designed and built for (and with) them in 2001. The wood-fired replica of a 17th-century updraught kiln from Barnstaple in North Devon was built in June/July 2001. It has served well over the years and I have been back to fire it in 2006 and 2008. It was a great pleasure to work with everyone at the Plantation and we made many friends. The Plantation had an enviable record for research and experimentation both in the study of the past and in the presentation of it to the public. We were pleased to be a part of that.

David Dawson supervising George Paré and Mark Atchison the Plantation blacksmiths firing the
(almost completed) kiln for the first time in 2001

The kiln was built in 2001 as part of a project to develop the facilities of the Craft Center at the Plantation and to extend the range of ways in which they could educate visitors to the museum about the crafts of the 17th-century. Crafts Center potter Debbie Mason was central to the project and commissioned David Dawson and I as specialists who could help them to construct an appropriate working replica of a period kiln. They already had the potters and the skills to make to pottery. The project had funding from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities and involved a group of teachers from the Rising Tides Charter School in Plymouth as well as museum staff and members of Cape Cod Potters. The kiln was built on a plot opposite the Crafts Center under the watching eyes of visitors. It was closely based on a group of 17th-century kilns excavated in Barnstaple, N. Devon from where much pottery was exported to early English settlers in North America. We had worked with the excavators and designed and built reconstructions as part of the Bickley Ceramics Project.

Mark Atchison and Michael Burrey firing the kiln for a second time. Plimoth Plantation 2001
Unloading the second firing. Plimoth Plantation 2001

These are most of the team that built and made for the kiln in 2001. Kristen Peltonen, Michelle Cusolito, Marianne Malmstrom, Michael Burrey, Martha Sulya, Debbie Mason, Tim Lindstrom, Ginny Coburn, me, Nancy, x, Ben, Gillian Higley, David Dawson and Kayla.

The Craft Center is being completely refurbished and the outdoor area is to become an arena with raked seating for demonstrations and performances. Parts of the workshops are top become a bakery, or so I understand. More info on their website.

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This entry was posted in Archaeology, Bickley Ceramics Project, Experimental Archaeology, Kilns and Kiln-building. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to PLIMOTH PLANTATION DEMOLISHES ’17TH CENTURY’ POTTERY KILN

  1. Thank you, Oliver Kent, for posting this- it is sad news, indeed! But seeing all of these great pictures brought back such wonderful memories!

    I actually went to see “our” kiln in 2013 and was very sad to find it fenced-in and unused. Apparently it was rarely fired. I did, however, spy a pot or two on the gift shop shelves that had the tell-tale signs of wood-fire.

    As a teacher who spent several years teaching American Colonial history to third graders, and a potter fascinated with the process of wood-fired pottery- building the Plimoth kiln was an epic adventure! The pottery I created and fired there are the only pots I don’t rotate in my art display. So proud of those pieces as they generate such fond memories.

    in 2002, Tim Lindstrom invited me to help construct a wood-fired kiln for Museum Village in Monroe, NY. Great friendships were forged as our crew built and fired that kiln for well over a decade.

    Sadly, pottery has taken a back seat these days for me as I focus on teaching technology to kids. However, if you look closely on 6 of the linked article, you will see an homage to our Plimoth Plantation kiln. As I taught myself to build in a virtual 3D world, I drew inspiration from my favorite structure I helped build by hand. http://knowclue.wikispaces.com/file/view/Game%20to%20Learn.pdf/298560992/Game%20to%20Learn.pdf

    I’m so appreciative that I had the opportunity to work on this project. It was a great pleasure to learn from both you and David Dawson. Also appreciative to Debbie Mason for her vision and dedication to make it all happen.

    They can quietly dismantled the kiln… but the memories burn on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oliver Kent says:

      Marianne, how excellent to hear from you! There was a drive to get the kiln going on a regular basis in 2008 when I was last there. Paula Marcoux had taken over running things and was very enthusiastic but sadly her job was short-lived. The kiln lasted a good length of time and as you say the memories and experiences were and are important. We certainly learned a lot and made changes to our own kilns on the basis of it – they were much more robust in future years. I remember Tim Lindstrom was going back to New York with plans to build and fire his own kiln but we didn’t keep in touch to hear how he got on. I am pleased to hear it worked out. I would love to see some photos. We try to keep track of the kilns that grow out of what we have done. We are still in contact with Debbie, Martha and Paula and I must try and contact Kristen to hear how she is getting on. The Bickley Project left off firing in 2010 but we are still engaged in research and writing – currently looking at 16th century kiln furniture which is more interesting that it might sound! I hoping to do some raku with students this summer.
      Your article on using new media in education is very interesting. In the art school we tend to see games and game design as career directions rather than tools for learning. I absolutely love the kiln. It even has a deckchair for David to direct the firing from! I will pass it on to him. Is there any chance of an image I could post on the blog?
      We are sad about the kiln but as you say the memories burn on.

      Like

  2. Pingback: 17th-Century Kiln Reconstruction at Little Woodham, Hampshire | Clay and Fire

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