Ceramic Supply Chicago to Lead Raku Firing at Local Middle School

Customers at Ceramic Supply Chicago are familiar with Dan Merkel, the technician/educator/artist who is always at the ready to help patrons.  Since joining CSC in the summer of 2018, Merkel has been instrumental in expanding community programs, especially through the Saturday Artist Series and school outreach.  Merkel has recently been helping a group of middle students at Murphy Middle School in the Oswego District 308 through their Art Club and will oversee a full day of raku firing there in April.


Merkel’s experience spans the artistic and technical aspects of ceramic art.  He holds a B.F.A. from Utah State University and came to CSC after eight years at Waubonsee Community College as Ceramic Laboratory Coordinator.  His artistic aesthetic is inspired by Asian culture, nurtured by study in both China and Korea.  At CSC, Merkel aims to expand programs that support artists and educators in the greater Chicago area.  He coordinates the Saturday Artist Series, which has featured over a dozen artist/educators since his arrival.  The program is growing, with strong attendance and a good representation of local artists, representatives from glaze manufacturers, and eminent national ceramicists.  Merkel says these events are designed to expand CSC’s support of the local artistic community.


Perhaps the ripest ground for growth and support is art education at the elementary, middle, and high school level.  Here, Merkel has stepped forward to offer assistance and aid to local teachers.  CSC provides technical assistance with kilns and wheels, clay and glazes.  Merkel points out that a kiln repair visit to a school can expand into informal advice and guidance on firing, and sometimes leads to a formal demonstration.  These encounters build strong relationships with educators and schools.


At Murphy Middle School, Merkel’s work with art teacher Mrs. Kunsch developed into just such a plan.  He recently spent an afternoon guiding the students through the process of creating coil pots.  He engaged the help of his friend and mentor, Joe Hernandez, a local retired art educator who will lead the students in a raku firing of those pieces on April 21. The middle school students will be joined by advanced art students from Oswego East High School for the day-long event.  By bringing in expertise from business and the local art community, schools can greatly enhance the learning experience for their students.  The students from Oswego will surely remember their raku day and perhaps one or two of them will become a future Saturday Visiting Artist at Ceramic Supply Chicago.