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November's Way Back Weekend features new wood-fired kiln items

Nov. 03, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

hUNTINGTON -- Even the man with a log cabin village is impressed with the insatiable wood pile appetite of Heritage Farm's latest attraction.

Past the Heritage Museum and near the Shingle Mill, the new wood-fired kiln has chomped about 41/2 cords of hardwood this week on its way to getting up to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit where potter Eric Pardue will be wood-firing items on Saturday as the kiln makes its debut for the monthly Way Back Weekend.

Mike Perry, who owns and operates the national award-winning Heritage Farm Museum and Village with his wife Henriella and the help of other family and friends, said it has been quite a journey this week firing up the massive brick-oven, wood-fired kiln -- an addition to the Farm which includes 20 buildings as well as 51/2 miles of walking trails on its 550 acres.

"We started out yesterday at 41 degrees and we are on our way to get up to 2,200 degrees," Perry said. "He (Eric) is thinking it will take 41/2 cords of wood to get it up that hot and probably three days, night and day, to do it.

Perry said they will have the kiln up and running for the museum's Way Back Weekend, which runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. There will also be River and Rail Bakery goods for sale, tours of the Museum buildings; blacksmithing; Childrens Hands-on Museum; the petting zoo and wagon rides (weather permitting). Way Back Weekend admission is $8 and $6 for a child age 2-12.

Also up and running during the Way Back Weekend will be famed glass blower, Dave Osburn, who runs Osburn Modern Glass, and who for decades worked for Blenko Glass. Lampwork bead artist Kari Newman will also be making glassworks as well.

Another new feature that just opened at the Farm is the new interactive bee exhibit that has been a collaboration between the Farm, the Cabell Wayne Beekeepers Association, Trifecta Productions, Perennial Favorites Greenhouse of Huntington and Cabell Midland High School's Future Farmers of America. That new exhibit was funded with taxpayer dollars allocated to the state Agriculture Commission by the Legislature with leadership from House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne.

The bee exhibit includes an interactive touch screen with a full array of videos, educational quizzes and graphics. A series of webcams link the display to a working beehive, three flower gardens and a demonstration vegetable garden exposing children and adults to the honey bee's role in everyday life.

Perry said the gas -kiln which uses a two-inch gas line, has taken all week, as usual to get the cold furnace up to operating temperature between 2,400 and 2,500 degrees.

"We are used to that two-inch line heating up the gas," Perry said. "Sitting there around the clock putting in wood is a new experience. I am anxious to see what happens. I'm usually like let's just get at it, and I'm not quite this patient."

Perry said the wait and the work though is worth it to show folks how settlers used wood-fired kilns to make essential vessels and earthenware used in everything from cooking and dining to storing and carrying water, aging food and other items.

"I had never seen this aspect of pottery so I am like everybody else, I know the pottery that is on the potter's wheel but that is still clay and as pretty as it is, you put water on it and it turns back to a lump of clay and it doesn't serve any purpose until it goes through the firing process and it goes back to the ceramics," Perry said.

Perry said Pardue, who has been working out at the Farm since July on the project, has about 150 clay works made by Eric and Cindy Pardue, as well as such well-known area potters as Bill Meadows and Kathleen Kneafsey, who is the artist in residence at the Huntington Museum of Art.

Perry said the bricked-oven that sits underneath a timbered shelter with a tiled roof, will help provide yet another window for Heritage Farm tour guides to talk about progress and how Appalachian ancestors used the kilns to upgrade utilitarian items in an artistic manner.

"I think it is an interesting step in thinking to talk about how people carried water or liquids from an animal organ to then wooden or tin buckets or ceramics to glass and now to plastic. All of this is a very functional part of our history," Perry said. "I am like a kid at Christmas, and I am so impressed with Eric and Cindy. They are real craftsmen and I can't wait to people to see it and for it to be a part of our Way Back Weekend activities. You sure can't go to many places and find a wood-fired kiln and see people blowing glass."

For more info on Way Back Weekend and other activities at Heritage Farm, located at 3300 Harvey Road, go online at www.heritagefarmmuseum.com.

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