Experimental Clay Workshop 2 (16.-17th Sep.)

You are warmly welcome to join the Experimental Clay Workshop at the Vartiosaari Artist House. This workshop, the second in the series of clay-related gatherings, will be organised on the 17th of September from 10 until 22:00. On the first day we will restore the kiln which we built during the spring workshop, discuss ceramics and, as the night darkens, fire the kiln. The fired items can be collected the next day from 12 until 15:00.

The workshops will start at the Vartiosaari Artist House with an informal seminar where we will explore ceramics, kilns and the island habitat. Participants are invited to craft small objects and to form lecture notes using clay, which we can fire later on the same day. There will be outdoor excursions, tea and coffee. A pop-up food kiosk will open around lunch time selling Thai soup and refreshments, prepared by Jakub Bobrowski.

If you have made clay things during the summer please bring them with you for the firing. If you have done something fun with clay or built a kiln yourself, please let us know and we will reserve time for you to present your findings to the group! Please sign up by the 11th of September.

Due to a high volume of interest we kindly ask participants to provide a short introduction text, which would offer insight to your approach on clay and other earthly matters. You can also suggest songs, games and performances for the nightly firing ritual.

The long nightly firing ritual will celebrate energy sourced from our surroundings.

Participation in the workshop costs 25€ and we can host 15 attendees. The fee will be used to cover the fuel and material costs. Any surplus gained from the donations will be shared equally with participants who have prepared presentations for the group. Event organisers are motivated to support the Vartiosaari Artist House.

  • Sign-up by the 11th of September (midnight)
  • 17th of September 10-22:00. Talking clay, firing the kiln and celebrating energy.
  • 18th starting at 12:00. Picking up ceramic objects.
  • Location: Vartiosaari Artist House across the shore from Reposalmentie 1
  • See https://www.aurinkolautta.fi/ for ferry schedules and fares. Transportation by night will be organised with a row boat.

Sign up by email to nomadickilngroup //äät gmail.com with a short introduction on why you would want to take part in the workshop. If you have questions regarding the Vartiosaari Artist House refer to Monika Czyżyk. If you want to reserve a spot for sharing your clay or kiln discoveries contact me at eero //äät storijapan.net or 0505729743

About the Nomadic Kiln Group: We started playing with clay last year and early this spring we organised the first Experimental Clay Workshop. During the two day session we collected clay from the forest, learned how to clean it, built a wood fuelled kiln from upcycled bricks and fired ceramics together. Now as the autumn arrives, we invite the old and new participants around the kiln for a second burning and for the sharing of any knowledge on clay.

Photos from the first workshop and a kiln building guide: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/10fJQoHA0MzMqTojnaF_FcyIbI0G5Ddvq


Our experimental clay workshop was a hit and we succeeded in most of the goals we had assigned ourselves. On the first day there were 21 attendees and around 15 members took part in the burning the following day. Some came only for the kiln building and clay collecting, while others were more interested in the burning and the surplus-metal-work. Some members had assigned themselves as mere observers. We developed the workshop program very fast and were fortunate that our open call appealed to a very skilled set attendees. Some were knowledgeable of ceramics and experienced in construction work. The flow of events mirrored our previous trips to Kurängen spring and our efforts to work with the clay we collected from there. The burning process replicated the events of our first kiln building session but this kiln was built with more precision using mud cement to secure the bricks. The chamber where clay objects were placed was bigger then previously.

The program structure was easy to decide on, as the labour chores we needed to perform in order to built the kiln and process the clay, were well defined and simple. Preparing materials such as the mud cement and reclaiming the bricks, was demanding but the actual work did not require intricate or specialized skills. Mud is an educative technology #ॐ. The materials afforded improvisation and the development of makeshift tools. The attendees were divided into sub-groups based on their interests (kiln building, clay collecting & cleaning and Vartiosaari island strolls) which occasionally self organized to complete chores. I served mostly as a supervisor of the kiln building process, overseeing the hive of attendees assembling it.

The layout of the kiln was based on the affordances of the bricks. I think the geometry of the bricks had a stronger impact on the design then our desires. The kiln was made by the bricks. I think we all wanted to work with mud, bricks and heat and this guided our work. Before building we disassembled the previous kiln, which gave the group a good idea on how the new unit could be constructed.

The burning took place the following day. The temperatures inside the kiln chamber were uneven. A corner of it was overheated which lead to to clay melting and the opposing side was cold. None of our ash glazing experiments succeeded, which indicates that we did not reach a temperature above 1170°C. I think we were close because some objects with ash glazing had almost a glazing like surface. Sadly none of the object I made from the Kurängen clay showed any persistent glazing effects. A vase I made, which I intend to place inside the Kurängen spring for visitors to use, feels solid and looks great. I now prefer that the spring water will penetrate the earthenware object and that it comes a part of the spring ecology. Perhaps in time it will better document the taste of the water it will be submerged in. I will continue working with it as a part of the Nomadhouse-program.

I’m not a teacher by trade but I have strong ambitions regarding collective work and how collective labour efforts should be organized. I prefer to know how materials behave and what to expect from them before engaging. When working with wood (which I know a bit), this affords me the opportunity to guide attendees out of their comfort zone and to engage with tools or processes which they fear. I count a child using a power-tool as a success. I particularly remember a workshop where I showed a shy member how to use a dozuki saw. In the process I guided their hand and I remember that this physical contact activated something in our relationship. I knew how to touch them in a manner by which they could saw a block of wood with at ease, while maintaining and even expanding their personal agency. It was a gentle touch.

Laying bricks and preparing clay cement, required the adaptation of new skill sets and material knowledges. Because I was personally out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t reach out to the attendees as sensitively as I would have liked. The burning ended up being a show rather then a collective achievement. Similarly some processes of the kiln building felt deceitful. I was physically exhausted from the work, internally second guessing the design while attempting to assist people with masonry work. The stress resulted in situations were I presented my gut feeling as authoritative knowledge.

At times, this authoritative tone was needed to steer the processes, so that we could meet the schedules and facilitate the work cycles other sub-groups. But the tone does not emancipate the attendees. Rather it enforces pre-existing biases and hinders the attendees eagerness to engage with crafts & materials. Hence, material engagement with the environment, remains a matter of specialization and it does not emerge as a process which benefits from personal grounded stances and motivations. Personal, grounded stances should be the foundation of new mineral sciences.

This is sort of what Joreen writes in The Tyranny of Stuctureless (1970), mentioned earlier: The work was personified and the flow of events depended on our charisma. Our skills became embodied as the infrastructure of the kiln but we failed to include the skill sets of the group in it.

Fortunately my crafty blabbers, nervous laughters and the contradictory guidelines revealed the de-stability of my masonry & ceramic skills. I think the attendees mostly called my bluff and will build much better kilns in the future. Still, it would have been more fun and more rewarding to work from a more based position, to facilitate and not only to perform. Also, I don’t know what Elina and Monika were doing or how they felt during the two intensive days (and the four intensive days of preparation). We were all exited and happy with the results but it will require an intricate debriefing to set a trajectory to usher the experimental clay initiative forwards.

Towards new sciences!

Experimental Clay Workshop at Artist House Vartiosaari (6.-7. June)

Experimental Clay Workshop: Digging, shaping and firing from nature at Artist House, Vartiosaari island (FULLY BOOKED!)

Artist House in Vartiosaari island warmly welcomes you to the first workshop from the speculative nature series focused on CLAY. The workshop is hosted by  artists Monika Czyżyk, Elina Vainio and Eero Yli-Vakkuri who have formed an experimental clay group. The workshop has a DIY approach with a keenness to material experimentation and research. The goal of the workshop is to learn where and how to collect clay from its natural environments. How to clean and work with it. How to build your own ceramic kiln, how to fire it using local area resources as fuel and to enjoy the abundance of energy natural settings provide us. We will also prepare your own ash glazing, to complete a full geoartistic cycle.

Location: Taiteilijatalo, Artist House, from Reposalmentie 1 you can take the sun ferry.

Monday 6th of June. 10:00-18:00 (or as long as it takes). Building a kiln and preparing firewood.

Participants are welcomed with tea, coffee and spring water in the garden of the artist house. The group will share insight to Kurängen spring, a site where clay objects which will be burned in a kiln are prepared from. The group will divide based on their interest. The first half has the opportunity to join a sensual walk and dig or commence work on the kiln.

On the walk participants can either partake on a walk together to the heart of the island. The area with the richest biodiversity and swamp, the rich bacterial microflora allow more rare plant species to grow. From there we will respectfully collect clay. After the walk the clay will be cleared. Tools and stations will be provided. Participants can make their own small objects. The kiln building group will prepare mud-cement and lay bricks to form a functional kiln and prepare a lot of firewood for the next day’s burning session.

Tuesday 7th of June. 10:00 (or as long as it takes). Firing the Kiln We made and forging iron to pass time.

Participants will be welcomed with tea, coffee and spring water in the garden of the artist house. Participants can bring their own dry small objects ready for firing. Note that for the wood firing it is recommended to use more sandy clay. You are welcomed to experiment with glazing ceramics, arranging ceramics in kiln. As soon as the kiln is ready the firing of the ceramics begins. We will use three different techniques of increasing temperature and work on site by adding wood for 6+ hours.

You are welcomed to invent rituals by the fire with us. We can learn a bit about forging using scrap metal bits and rail track for an anvil. During the firing time we will eat a vegan lunch. It will be possible to visit gardens, and some sites in Vartiosaari island. At the end of the day after the ceramics have cooled a bit we will sneak a peak to them and leave them to cool overnight.


We build a kiln with Elina and Monika. The construction was simple. Old bricks formed a square base for the fire (~40x40x20) with a half-a-brick size vent on the side opposing the opening. Bricks were laid to form a ~60cm shaft and a steel grill built in the middle. We used ceramic tiles on top of the grill to support the ten(ish) items we burned. The shaft was covered with a steel plate to keep the temperature. The opening had a partial brick door and holes in the kiln walls were filled using a clay/sand mixture for insulation. I had small bellow for building up temperature and a electric fan for building high heats (from Jesse).

The firing had three phases. 2 hours low heat using only wood as the fuel (this failed as the temperature rise too fast breaking an item), 2 hours of medium heat with more wood and energy form the bellow pumping up the temperature and 2 hours extreme heat with charcoal and the electric fan for extreme temperatures. We suspect we reached temperatures above 1100°C because a store bought glazing designated for 1050°C we used was burned. Some pieces which were closest to the heat also burned and showed charred glazed like surfaces, indicating the clay turned into lava.

While heating we practised forging using scrap metal bits and rail track for an anvil.

It took a day to build the kiln and prepare the firewood and a day for the firing. The items were left cooling over night. We used various clays and mixtures for the objects but clay from Kurängen spring worked best. We suspect it has sand particles in it which prevent extreme shrinkage, helping the items to not break in the heating. A thick jug I made from clay (partially found from the basin of the spring and three meters north east from it) is thick enough that contains water even without glazing.

We will do a new firing next month for glazing and making new things. For the glazing we’ll use a 1:2 ash and 1:2 clay mixture. The ash is from wood produced by the first burning and the clay from Kurängen. I’m in the process of washing the ash. The recipe and science comes from Phil Berneburg. We’ll build a bigger kiln and aim for a steadier pre-heating phase.

Using clay from a spring, to drink its water completes and begins a ritual a geoartistic-cycle. It feels powerful and I love that the process of preparing clay objects is thoroughly holistic: Using ashes from the first burning for the second burning glazing feels like a gaiaistic design. We also prepared small cups, which I’ll built a wooden tray for. The long term plan is deposit the items submerged into the Kurängen spring water, were they can be used by visitors and forest dwellers. The design of the items is utilitarian. The cups which we made don’t have any straight edges, which works well for the forest as it does not have any straight edges either.

A visit to the spring in long due. I should groom the garden of peat I planted.


The Threshold (2021) Vasif Kortun. Got passed this by Elina as a good companion to our text in No-Niin. Kortun also addresses the moment when covid turned museums into content-broadcast-stations which were so desperate for audience engagement that they forgot decency. For me, this broke the threshold: Their art became a one-way affair (which made the other side was irrelevant).

Threshold […] is about the conditions of how the two parties—the institution and its audience—begin to trust each other. Not to consent, but to agree to a process of accepting each other as workable partners; not only in the institution’s programs but also in the veracity of the relationship. It is a fluid contract, not a once-and-done deal. It is also not merely about the “offer,” but how the institution acts upon the world, its demeanor, its decency, how it levels with a situation, and how it treats the user as wiser than itself. Absolute parrhesia cannot really be expected, but adopting, growing, and developing this relation into an institution’s output is a must. Otherwise, institutions are just shopping, doing good, and being timely: commoning in the Summer, queering in the Fall, and decolonizing in the Winter.