FUNCTIONAL REUSE: Odyssey Community School art project

Source: via Lyman on Pinterest


Alrighty High Schoolers. As Gene discussed with you, this project will center around found objects, leftover materials, and salvaged parts. Your goal is to take a selection of otherwise useless or unwanted materials and give them new life. Check theĀ project description and parameters to get a better idea of the scope of the project.

If you feel like you need some inspiration, I have put together some images on a Pinterest board that you can check out. I will admit that this was my first Pinterest board, and I didn’t do it “right” so when you click on a photo it does not take you to its source page as it should. Live and learn right?

You all did a great job picking out useful looking stuff from the scrap yard the other day, so let’s see what you can piece together! We’ll discuss necessary tools and hardware in class.

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Build Your Own Longboard Skateboard!

Hurry! Tomorrow is the last day that you can register for my workshop at CTAC where you can build your own longboard. For more info on the class and to register, check out the Creative Technology and Arts Center at Odyssey Community School in Asheville.

The class starts next Monday and runs for three Monday afternoons. You will design and build your own deck from multi-ply Baltic Birch plywood. You will need to provide your own trucks to complete your board.

Fear not! If you can’t make it to this class, I may be teaching it again in early summer at CTAC. And if you are planning to spend any time in the Chapel Hill area in July, I will definitely by teaching this same class in a condensed one week version that meets three hours a day at Woods Charter School. For more info on that class and to register, check out the Woods Summer Wonders program which is teaming with awesome summer classes for kids of all ages!

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First Firing: Woods Charter Revisited

Elementary Art students pose in front of the hot oven.

The time has come (and passed actually) to fire up the oven at Woods Charter for the first time. On Thursday last week I loaded up the truck with a few essentials (matches), my fiancee, and my trusty road companion CB the dog, and headed on down to Chapel Hill.

Friday morning at the school I spent a few minutes making the rounds and saying hi to all the fantastic teachers at Woods. Then Jim showed me to the wood pile, including a huge pile of sticks and twigs that Mr. Durham’s art class collected for me on Wednesday, and started picking out the driest wood. Next comes the part that more people ask questions about than just about any other thing… starting the fire. It is always amazing to me how many people ask “How do you start a fire in there?” Perhaps it is my rural North Florida upbringing that makes fire building seem instinctual, but when I am asked this question I am still forced to pause before answering to try to decipher what exactly it is that this inquisitive person means. Well, this time I decided to ask ’em right back…

3rd grader: How do you start a fire in there?

Me: Well, what do you think? How would you start a fire in there?

Assorted 3rd grade answers:

  • Rub two sticks together.
  • Use gasoline and a match!
  • With a magnifying glass.
  • Hit two stones together. (I assume this one was referring to flint and steel)

And of course you can always tell the students that have some genuine camping or boyscout experience when their answer is right on the money: build a teepee of sticks with some pine straw underneath it and light the pine straw with a match. Though, in this case, I used some paper from the recycle bin rather than pine straw. And voila!

Humble beginnings for a seven hour firing.

A little later... smoke begins to obscure the Woods logo tile.

A hungry oven, almost ready to spit out pizzas for some hungry people.

The day was a huge hit with many of the teachers bringing their classes out for a short break to check out the goings on. Many of the students that came out were concerned that the smoke was “burning” the Woods logo tile above the oven door. I had to assure them several times that it will scrub off with a little Goo Gone or some citrus cleaner. Check back later for some pics of the first pizzas we baked!

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Woods Charter Oven: Complete!

A closeup of the oven door: open for business.

Well technically, construction on the oven was finished on November 22, 2011, but it needed four to six weeks to cure properly before it could be used. The next step is to “pre-fire” the oven to drive out any residual moisture and burn out any possible impurities or organics that were in the clay.

Since the last posting about the oven it has been a busy couple months, so here is a quick pictorial essay covering the remainder of the build. And of course, the long awaited stop motion video of this build will be up soon! Look for that in the next post.

The crew posts up for a well earned pizza part following completion of the oven.

The interior dome form and floor brick layer ready for dome construction.

An igloo, or an oven?

The first layer of the dome is done. The board and wire show where the chimney will be.

All hands getting dirty for the final layers of the dome.

Final layer of the dome form is finished.

Voltaire and Ryan finish up the diamond lathe to get ready for tiling.

A man possessed: Patrick single handedly removes the interior dome form.

Ready for the tiling!

The first round of tiles finds a new home.

Lots of cleaning and scraping to be done.

Grouting the tiles and applying the final adobe to the base.

Basically done! Some cleanup to do still. And remove that tape...

The interior surface of the dome.

So fresh and so clean; the new oven gets ready to hibernate for a month.

A big congratulations to everyone who worked on the oven. The tenth grade students put in some serious work on this thing, with many of them staying after school to help keep the project on schedule. All that’s left to do now is fire it up and make some delicious pizzas!

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Woods Charter Oven: First Casting Day

With the steel frame and backer board prepped and ready for the base slab to be cast, it was time to start mixing…

Prepped for mixing: The calm before the storm

A little prep work before the students showed up included getting some mixing stations set up (plywood and masonite squares) and some plastic laid out to protect the sidewalks (somewhat effective, some scraping to be done…). Two of the student groups were still working on their stage one projects: the brick cutters and the dome builders. That freed up the other two groups to begin mixing and casting the dense base layer of the oven floor.

Ready... Set... MIX!

The clay that we are using for the adobe mix is locally sourced from right next door on Briar Chapel property, and contains a very high percentage of clay. There is of course the regional Carrboro Grit and some miscellaneous debris to content with, but we got a pretty clean vein thanks to some careful scouting and some help from a big ol’ front loader. The mixing procedure consists of carefully chopping the clay soil into the smallest grains possible so that we have a fairly homogenous blend with few chunks. A flat shovel is best for this, but some students had to make do with a pointed one…

I Mix You Like Craaaazy, I Mix You Like Craaaazy....

After 5 or 6 batches and some tired shoulders we had enough mixture to cast a three inch thick dense base slab. This mixture has a high percentage of cement mixed in with the clay to create a solid slab. The next layer will employ perlite to create an insulating slab that will go on top of this one. But our goal for this day was accomplished: Base Slab = Done.

Y'all just couldn't resist carving your initials into it, could you...

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Woods Charter Oven: Construction Begins!

Using the steel frame base as a solid foundation (on wheels…) we began construction of the oven two weeks ago. The students remained in the groups that they were in for the research projects, and began working on separate parts of the oven that related to their research. The separate parts were: designing the interior dome form that the oven would be built against; layout and cutting of the floor bricks; layout, cutting and attaching the tile backer board for the sides of the frame; and creating the reinforcing wire mesh form that would be used to strengthen the walls and base slab of the oven.

Here are a few shots of the students in action!

Kevin cuts some bricks..

The brick crew lays out the floor

Devin and Meg work on the interior dome form

The interior dome form is loosely constructed of particle board and 2x4s, screwed together and finally covered in wire mesh and plastic sheeting. This dome will serve as support for the adobe mix as we build the walls, and will eventually be removed once the walls harden. It needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the walls, but built in such a way that it can easily be dismantled inside the oven and removed through the door. I gave some basic guidelines and measurements to the crew working on it, but left the construction decisions up to them to see what they would come up with. I feel pretty good about their design and all attachments are made with only screw, so it should be easy enough to dismantle. I think we may have a struggle getting the first few boards out, but then it should go pretty smoothly. The first few are always tough because the weight of the adobe pushes down on the form, essentially wedging it in place.

Claire and Joseph begin cutting wire fencing for the reinforcing mesh

Mr. Malone assists the crew that is attaching the tile backer board to the sides of the steel base. The floor bracing for the base slab has been cut and placed into the frame.

As the first two crews were working on bricks and the dome form, the other two crews were busy cutting wire fencing and attaching backer board. The wire fencing is sculpted into the form of the oven dome that will serve as reinforcement for the walls. There is also a layer of mesh integrated into the base slab of the oven. The backer board is cut to a height that serves as the retaining wall for the cast base slab. The bricks will be set into this base slab later.

The whole oven is built with wheels integrated into the base so that the oven can be rolled out of the way and secured when not in use. Some of our construction decisions were made to account for the vibrations and jostling that the oven will be subject to when it is being rolled. The gaps in the concrete sidewalks around the school are pretty dramatic and will try to give the oven a good pounding. The wire mesh will help hold everything together.

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Woods Charter Oven stage 1

With the 10th grade students’ research presentations on the horizon, we celebrate the arrival of the base platform for the oven. It was delivered yesterday ahead of schedule and purdier than I ever imagined. I delivered a basic sketch of our requirments to Kim Sutton of Red Wolf, LLC and what I got in return was this fabulous gem…


This thing is the definition of beefy. All size requirements met with the stunning accuracy I would expect, but the craftsmanship and attention to detail is above and beyond what most companies would deliver.


Also, Ricky’s (he welded it up for us) design for mounting the casters is super sweet. Once the sides of this thing are skirted with tiles the casters will essentialy disappear. Perrrrrrfect.

Three inch angle iron makes up the legs and frame with square tube and two inch channel for the top and bottom braces respectively. The casters are mounted on sections of four inch channel, cut to fit flush into the corners. And it’s predrilled for mounting our hardibacker to boot. Bad to the bone.

We begin physical construction next week. But before then, look for the research presentations to be linked here after tomorrow.

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