I made an interesting discovery this month. For years I’ve been interested in the work of Zeljko Kujundzic. I’ve tracked down and written about his paintings, ceramics, metal sculpture, etc. Through the course of my research I have also corresponded with his surviving family members. Earlier this month I took a drive and met one of his daughters. She graciously invited me in and answered all of my questions about her father, his career, his various commissions and showed me some of the works she possesses.
During our visit she produced a container of his old files - ephemera made of newspaper clippings, pamphlets, magazines, exhibit catalogues and the like. She offered for me to take a look through it which I was pleased to do.
While flipping through a 1982 copy of La Ceramique Moderne, a French language publication he occasionally wrote for, I came across an article he wrote about his experiences constructing a functional solar kiln. As I browsed the article I was struck because it featured one of the pieces in my ceramic collection. One of my favourite small sculptural pieces I now learned was entitled “Astronaut.” I was pleased to see it there and even happier to know what he called it. (Kujundzic almost always named his sculptural pieces).
After translating the article I learned about his various prototypes and experiences constructing his kiln. At the outset in 1971, he made it clear his mission was born out of environmental concern. He saw it as a necessary undertaking to contribute to the health of the planet. Working with the support of the University of Pennsylvania and lens manufacturers, he eventually came to use a large acrylic lens filled with white wine which could generate heat in a chamber up to 1400º C in 5 minutes! Once fully translated, it turned out to be a mostly technical article detailing the iterative process he went through to successfully kiln fire using only solar energy. What interested me most though was his reference to the little sculpture I have…
He indicated that “Astronaut,” at 18 cm tall, a sandstone clay sculpture was one of the largest pieces he successfully fired in his solar oven. To evenly fire it he attached a barbecue rotisserie to the bottom of the chamber so it would slowly rotate while it vitrified.
This is precisely why I enjoy this hobby so much. The stories and history you can uncover is so fascinating! For more information on the life and work of Zeljko Kujundzic please visit www.torncanvas.ca
Studio Pottery Canada
Pottery enthusiast learning about the history of this Canadian art form and curating samples from the best in the field pre-1980.