Robert Harrison

Mission Clay Pipe Company Research Project – Part I

My work with fired clay pipe material at the Pittsburg, Kansas factory led to an invitation to visit the Phoenix factory which continues to produce and fire Mission Clay Pipe products. After a site-visit in 2016, I began working at the Phoenix factory in February of 2017. My affinity for working industrial production sites has grown stronger and stronger over the years. Perhaps because of the scale and output of the production facilities, I feel a sense of creative freedom in these factories. Industrial production facilities seem to suit my architectural sensibilities.

  • June & November 2015
  • Pittsburg Kansas factory

I began the first week-long working session in the artist studio in the factory with a request for 16 (15” diameter) freshly extruded clay pipe bells, which normally allow pipe to be joined together. I saw the bells as column tops or capitals and began to learn how to work with the extruded wet clay material. I experimented with stacking unfired clay rings (used as wasters to absorb the shrinkage process in drying) which were readily available. The undulating stacked ring columns certainly had great potential.

Perhaps the most gratifying attempt with the freshly extruded materials during that visit was cutting four long wedge-shaped slices out of a standing 15” diameter pipe. After removing the wedges, the pipe was gently folded inward, a dry clay ring was lowered onto the pipe and then banded with straps and wrapped for a months-long drying cycle. I was immensely pleased with this innovation that led to the Tapering Columns series.