Visitors / seeing Kohler through fresh eyes

by Ian



We were lucky enough to have two of our favorite people come to visit us this week. David Chatt is a wonderful artist, friend, baker (of late), and we think he’s not at all scary once you get to know him. And Betsy DeWitt, known for her fashion savvy (taking in her stories here during our daily respirator hour) is also good at many things, including being our friend. We  got pretty excited seeing some new work she’s currently developing in the Penland photo studio, too.


One of the cool things about showing our friends around was seeing things anew and noticing some things for the first time. There are so many sights like this – repetition almost to the vanishing point.

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We walked around the pottery some more.

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And discovered we really like the undersides of things.


This building used to be the only Kohler pottery factory. Now, there are a total of 50 manufacturing locations around the world and this building doesn’t produce nearly as much as it used to. One worker told me they used to ship a million pieces a year out of Kohler, WI and now they make around 300,000. As a result, there are some really great, mysterious and spooky corners to explore.



A former resident artist made these tiles, which are portraits of the folks that worked on the casting floor at the time. Some of them are still working here.

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We have formed good relationships already with some of the people who work around us in the pottery. We’re here on a grand and temporary adventure, while they’re clocking in and out, and yet they have been incredibly gracious and generous with us. Some have taken a real interest in our project and will come check on our progress. Others go out of their way to help get our pieces through the dryer and through the kiln. I like that this artist found a way to memorialize how much these folks contribute to all the work that comes out of this residency.


We also made it to the foundry, where Daniel took this picture of liquid iron being poured into sand molds. Interestingly, that stuff is very close to the same temperature as the hottest part of the kiln.


Kohler still sells a lot of cast iron enameled bathtubs, a product they invented. David and Ian spent a lot of time talking about their dream of the perfect bathtub.

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And they also found some time to talk about the tile project. As David and Betsy headed back to North Carolina, we dove back into the fundamentals of the design, tweaking some of the geometry. Now we’re back in a mold-making frenzy, getting ready for the next phase of the project. Very soon we will be making over forty tiles a day. More details to come.