Nov 1, 2021

Art on Fire: Literally


Art Project Highlight with Instructor Christine Ruby

From Soil to Pinch Pot

The Farnsworth Education Building is something special. It has allowed our programs to grow in a way that I never anticipated when I started working at the Dixon as a contracted art instructor in 2014. But when I joined the full-time staff here this summer, I learned that the education building has something even more wonderful than beautiful studios and fully stocked supply closets: It has A LOT of clay. As in it is built on clay. While this may make the garden staff cringe, and I’m sure it caused many nightmares for the building crew of this new building, as a ceramicist it made me so excited. I started looking for a way to make usable clay from the Dixon property. What better way could I think of to integrate the Dixon into the classroom?


But if you make clay, you also need a kiln. Kilns are basically ovens with really hot fires. Oh wait, we have a big fire every year! Art on Fire is the Dixon’s annual fundraiser event for its education and horticulture programs. Oh boy, I thought, it’s the perfect opportunity to do something really exciting. I got to work making the clay, and I also got Kaleidoscope Club involved. Kaleidoscope Club is one of our long-running after-school art programs for kids ages 5 to 9. The kids are always up for trying new things, and they loved the idea of making something out of mud.


We walked around the property, and I showed them where clay comes from. We learned about the clay-making process. Then we all got to make small little pinch pots for the Art on Fire cauldron. Getting this to happen was a little scary: Would our pinch pots survive the fire? So many questions, and I couldn’t give the kids an answer other than the fact that it was an experiment. Inside of a shoebox I built a little nest of woodchips for their little pots to rest in, and Danny Hopper, our resident fireman, helped bury them deep in the cauldron.


And just as we had hoped, every single little pinch pot survived. We took something out of the ground and made it into something that will last a very long time. Seeing how something can be made from nothing is truly inspiring. In this same way, your support of Art on Fire has helped and still helps our education programs grow into something great.