USF’s Erschen Leads Week-long Kiln Workshop in Wisconsin

Joliet, Ill. – Last month, Paul Erschen, University of St. Francis (USF) Art & Design Department Chair and Associate Professor of Visual Art, conducted a week-long Charcoal & Lime Workshop at the ACRE Artist Residency in rural Southwest Wisconsin. The labor-intensive workshop was attended by international, professional artists and involved the construction of two kilns for the manufacturing of hydrated lime (the binding agent in concrete) and hardwood charcoal.

Erschen directed the construction of an earthen lime kiln, created with straw and clay dug from Wisconsin’s Kickapoo River. The kiln firing had a strong USF connection, as Joliet limestone was super-heated above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, thus converting it to slaked lime.

Erschen also demonstrated the construction of a steel barrel kiln for the production of hardwood charcoal, a process technically known as pyrolysis. Erschen plans to use the resultant charcoal, which was derived from Art & Design wood shop scrap wood, in a workshop with his USF students to produce drawing material and handmade oil paint.

“Both kiln firings involved close monitoring and fuel replenishment over a late-night period of four to six hours, which created a wonderful communal atmosphere,” Erschen said. “We were able to work together through the processes of preparing the firewood and monitoring kiln temperatures, while also enjoying lively conversation and s’mores.”

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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