Michael Flaherty

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SpaceCraft

SpaceCraft is a project that uses a handmade solar powered kiln to fire ceramic objects. The kiln consists of a parabolic mirror with a reflective gold surface, a refractory ware chamber positioned at the mirror's focal point, and a wooden mount to point the apparatus at the sun. The kiln is used to fire tiny sculptures of planets, and the planets are an array real and imagined types: gas giants, cratered moonlets, water worlds, planets covered in artificial structures, and planets of polar bears and icebergs. SpaceCraft has been exhibited in a number of different configurations which include the planets as well as the kiln itself.

The kiln is made using only conventional materials and equipment easily accessible to any studio potter. The parabolic mirror is thrown on the wheel using a mathematically generated template. It is trimmed, dried, bisque fired, glazed with a clear glaze, fired again, coated with a gold lustre, and fired a third time. The ware chamber is made from insulating firebrick and kiln cement, and covered with heat-reflective aluminum foil. The project exmplifies my interest in low-tech, do-it-yourself culture, while aesthetically referencing Space Age manufacturing. Indeed, the gold surface and hexagonal mount are a deliberate nod to NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

At its core, SpaceCraft dwells on the great irony of our time: the pinnacle of our science and engineering allows us to discover and explore new worlds, while at the same time our avarice and apathy seem to lead to the destruction of our own planet. In capturing the power of sunlight it also proposes a symblolic, if not entirely practical, solution to our problem of over-consumption.


The mirror and ware chamber on the mount.


Two versions of the kiln.


A planet in the ware chamber during firing.


SpaceCraft exhibited during the Bonavista Biennale.


A planet with artifical structures on its surface.


A gas giant planet.


A rocky, asteroid-like planet.


The kiln was sometimes used for pottery too. A small vase during firing.


A finished vase, still in the ware chamber.


A finished vase.