By the time The Chronicle arrived at Yourist Gallery on Broadway Street last Wednesday, the temperature had cooled from its maximum of 2300F° to around 170F°. The owner of the gallery, Kay Yourist, had donned giant leather gloves to open the door to her new kiln after its first complete firing the previous night.
The door to the kiln is actually a wall of un-mortared bricks that gets opened and closed by stacking and unstacking the wall brick by brick. The top few rows of bricks, which were sourced through Schad Boiler Setting Company in Detroit, are custom shaped to match the arch of the kiln’s roof, and labeled to prevent the door-closing task from evolving into a puzzle-solving exercise.
Even though we were there to see the opening, we got a chance to see a bit of the closing process, too – Yourist had actually begun the opening process before we arrived. But she indulged us by first re-stacking the bricks into a solid wall, so we’d have a clearer idea of how it worked.
Unstacking the bricks was slow going at first, but once Yourist had un-wedged the top row, the pace picked up. It wasn’t long before the top front layer of pottery pieces became visible. The kiln has three tiers and a front and a back, so the volume of art work we saw was about a sixth of the kiln’s total capacity.