Jessica was a guest at the Masonry Heater Association of North America again! As always, the conference was held at the Wildacres Retreat conference center near Asheville, North Carolina from April 10-16. Jessica represented Stone House Kachelöfen all week at the annual event. She led a workshop on how to assemble a kachelöfen.
A completed Muskoka Kachelofen glazed in Caramel.
The Muskoka Kachelofen is a small freestanding Kachelofen/Grundofen. It is named after a regional municipality in Central Ontario that is famous for its lake houses, cottages and stunning wilderness. The footprint of this stove is remarkably compact at only 63cm x 53cm x 208cm (24in x 20in x 80in). It is available in a number of colours. The demo unit will be glazed in a gorgeous deep green colour.
Jessica Steinhäuser is an award–winning Canadian ceramic artist who works on a grand scale, breathing new life into the ancient tradition of building kachelöfen. For her, they are akin to giant blank canvases that she turns into stunning art installations that warm both body and soul. Jessica studied pottery formally in Germany for four years. She then took a leap of faith and immigrated to Canada at age 22, and established a pottery business in 1989. Jessica created her first kachelofen in 2008. Since then she has designed and built over 50 ovens all over the world. Her work merges functionality with artistry: vibrant colour, sophisticated clean lines, and architectural sensitivity have become hallmarks of her work.
This was one of the most challenging ovens that Jessica has undertaken. One of our medium sized ovens might contain 100-150 pieces. This one has 250 pieces! This striking oven was conceived of as a room divider between a kitchen and a living room in an historical “New England” style farmhouse.
A maquette was made during the visualization stage of the project.The completed project as seen from the kitchen side.
The central portion of the kitchen side has a black pizza oven atop a bake oven. On the right hand side is the stove top. The fire chamber below is used to heat both the bake oven and the stove top. Wood is burned directly inside the pizza oven. The heat generated by this side of the kachelofen is not retained in the thermal mass. This means that it can be used year round without overheating the room. All of the features on this side share one chimney. On the left hand side is a ledge that can be used as counter space, or even a cozy sitting nook!
The living room side of the unit is used for heating.
A delicate relief pattern of a swallow accents the living room side of the unit. The inspiration for this pattern was found in a very special piece of jewelry owned by the client. We are particularly pleased by how the lines of the display alcove are mirrored by the fire chamber door. Beneath the door is a wood storage area. This side of the kachelofen is used for seasonal heating.
This sequence of photos shows the kachelofen in various stages of completion.An example of Jessica’s masterful slip trailing technique.The outer ceramic layer of bricks is typically built 1 – 2 levels ahead of the internal fire chamber/flue network.Felix creates the main fire chamber.Jessica adjusts the cook top.Both stainless steel chimney vents can be seen here.Note the “white on white” slip trailing above the cook top.Grouting and cleaning are the final steps.The installation team posing in front of the finished project!
The crown corner kacheln are usually the largest pieces in one of our projects. They tend to get made toward the tail end of the production cycle, and because of this there is always a sense of excitement when it’s time to work on them. They are usually the most difficult and time-consuming parts to make. The corners are extremely heavy and unwieldy. Glazing is done by propping them up over a large container and pouring liquid over the piece.
This glaze required three poured coats to achieve the desired effect. This is the application of the final coat.
This glaze yields a beautiful matte black finish with a subtle hint of green.
This is a massive kachelofen. Its overall height is 280cm (9’2″). We are looking forward to seeing it once the bench is built around the base of the unit and the rest of the room is completed!
It always feels great once the last few pieces of a project come out of the kiln. Our natural workflow has been interrupted by the pandemic, and it has often felt like things in the studio are taking longer to get done. Tasiana’s stove is a perfect example of this. Tasiana and Mathew signed off on this design back in September. Under normal circumstances these pieces would have been shipped out in January or February. The extra time involved however, turned into an advantage as we were able to refine the design of two parts of this stove. These refinements will make the installation process smoother!
technical drawing of Tasiana’s stove
The design includes a cat motif as part of a decorative garland around the top of the stove. We are extremely happy with how this section has turned out.
The uppermost ring of the stove
The last pieces out of the kiln were the abdeckplatten. These are the tiles that go on top of the stove.
Tiles for the top of Tasiana’s Stove. The “marquee” kacheln showing the date can also be seen here. There are parts for two other projects as well.
If all goes well we will ship this project out by the end of May!
Barkley Hunt is a business owner, heritage mason, and occasional carpenter. He is best known for commercial and residential restoration in Toronto, Canada. In 2020 he started a podcast dedicated to traditional craft, trade and art. The Art of the Craft is a weekly podcast where Barkley interviews those who are passionate about the work they create and to inspire younger generations. Jessica was interviewed during the pandemic. You can listen to Jessica’s episode here.
Jessica and Barkley discuss the long and fascinating journey that brought her to Canada, and her lifelong fascination with kachelöfen.
Please rate, review and subscribe to Barkley’s excellent series!
This “tin ceiling” inspired design is one of many projects that Jessica and Barkley discuss.
One of the most important projects in Jessica’s development as a designer of kachelofen was the “Chesapeake” from 2012. This was her first kachelofen that included a heated bench. It was also her first “multi-use” design. The right hand side of the unit includes a bake oven and a cooking surface:
Cecile Davis, a local filmmaker, made this informative and fun video while Jessica and Mario were doing the installation.
The inner firebrick flue system of the oven is typically built in tandem with the outer decorative bricks. In this case Mario and Jessica had to do as much work as possible on the outside of the oven due to a catastrophic shipping delay! Hurricane Sandy had shut down much of the Eastern Seabord, and delivery schedules were completely thrown out of sync. This meant that the European portion of materials had not yet arrived when work commenced.
In the end they were able to make the most of things by taking a day off in the middle of the build!
Earlier this year we completed the most ambitious project we’ve ever done, from both a design and logistical perspective! The project was to create a kachelofen/pizza oven/open fireplace unit in a Victorian home.
Designing the unit required a site visit to get a sense of any architectural features that we could include. Several rooms in the house have raised wooden panels with delicate beading. These seemed like the perfect pattern to base our standard kacheln on. We ended up rotating the pattern vertically to better suit the project.
Raised paneling found in other parts of the house
We also matched several other elements of our design to existing house parts.
Kachelofen foot matched to baseboard profile
One of our favourite elements is the doric column pattern that we used for the fireplace.
Existing column in the house
Our clay column for the fireplace
One of the stated goals of the project was to make something that felt like it belonged in a heritage building. Renovations were still ongoing when we completed our part of the project. We can’t wait to see photographs once the rest of the job is complete!