Monday, February 15, 2010

He Gets a Kick out of Bricks

My Asheville potter son, Josh Copus, is a self-confessed brick geek. He collects found bricks, recycles old bricks, makes his own bricks, and builds wood fire kilns with bricks.

It’s been more than three years since he harvested a lifetime supply of clay from a tobacco farmer’s field, and more than two years since his UNCA thesis show that featured his wild clay pottery and several art installations made from his handcrafted bricks.

Now, in what Josh calls “a defining moment,” he has manifested an infinite supply of bricks, more than enough to build a couple more wood fire kilns on his Marshall County Community Temple compound, a three acre property that already houses the three-tiered Noborigama climbing kiln that Josh built. Because of the Noborigama kiln, the property has already begun to be a destination for potters from all over the country.

A friend put Josh in touch with one of the owners of a major brick plant down south. Josh had just finished visiting the plant and was hauling a truckload of seconds (bricks slightly under company standards) back north to his property when he phoned me. “It’s an absolute goldmine, a shinning pile of light,” he said with excitement.

Describing the plant operation, he said, “The volume and operation is hard to fathom.” Twenty-four hours a day bricks of every shape and size you can dream up are made on train cars and fired in a train kiln the length of a football field, he explained.

Josh’s enthusiasm was contagious, as he expressed his liberating sense of support, gratefulness for having had the opportunity to talk shop with a fellow brick geek at the plant, and appreciation for the alignment that allowed the fortuitous turn of events. His respect for the tradition of bricks was apparent.

“Nothing would have happened without bricks,” he said. I remembered the BFA show, the theme of which grew from a found clay pipe (power), a clay vessel (food) and a brick (shelter), and his12 foot tall and 20 foot wide brick wall that demonstrated the strength of a collective with the word INDIVIDUAL stamped on each one. Other bricks stamped with the word COMMUNITY continued the theme and reflected the name of the show, “Building Community.”

I thought about the role that clay has played in civilization, and then about the Industrial Revolution as Josh explained that the plant makes bricks that can withstand the high temperatures of furnaces. They supply an aluminum smelting ore company and other industrial refractory plants, like those for making steel.

I jotted notes as he talked. His knowledge of clay and firing began to go over my head. Soon he was sounding like an alchemist/chemist using phrases like “melting points relative to partial size…” and words like “flux.”

“When they write the book, this will be a whole chapter,” Josh said with the excitement of a chocolate loving kid who had just visited the Willie Wonka factory. As far as he was concerned the cargo he was hauling could have been bricks of gold, or the gold at the end of a rainbow, payday for a few years of non-stop hard work.

Post Note:
Click and scroll down HERE for archived stories and photos recording Josh’s career as potter, kiln builder, and ClaySpace Coop founder.

~ Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on February 2, 2009.

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