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Creative Arts Classes


Braddock Library Ceramics Studio
Water Filter Project

"Water borne disease is the world’s biggest health challenge. Each day, over 5,000 children die from bad drinking water."

After Hurricane Mitch devastated much of Central America, Ron Rivera, the international coordinator for Potter’s for Peace, developed the ceramic water filter to help relieve the problems in Nicaragua. The filter is made by pressing a mixture of clay and sawdust into a flower pot shape. When it is fired, the sawdust is burned away, leaving numerous holes to allow water to pass through the permeable walls. The filter is then impregnated with nano-particles of silver that act as an antimicrobial agent. The filter element fits into a standard-sized 5 gallon bucket as a water receptacle. A plastic spigot at the bottom enables the clean water to be drawn off. In some countries where the water filter is produced, local potters make ceramic vessels as receptacles.
In an effort to promote the water filter and gain greater recognition of the viability of this simple, life-saving design, members of the Slippery Rock University Potter’s Guild organized the first Potter’s for Peace water filter receptacle show. An exhibition of ceramic receptacles was mounted in Slippery Rock in November of 2005. The show traveled to West Virginia, then North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Texas and Missouri. At each venue, more ceramic artists joined and contributed pieces. Some of the water filter receptacles to be displayed at the Braddock Gallery were first exhibited in Pittsburgh during the NCECA Conference. New work has been added and afterwards, the pieces will be shipped to Phoenix and continue to travel on the West Coast.

Our Water Filter Exhibition at the Unsmoke Artspace is the launch of the second generation of this exhibition. Currently, Jeff Schwarz, an AmeriCorps volunteer, is the director of the first filter production facility in North America. The Braddock Project is funded in part by Pure Water for All, an action arm of the Forest Hills Rotary Club. They work with Shoulder to Shoulder Pittsburgh, a medical group that maintains a clinic in the mountains of Honduras. Our objective is to make the Braddock Pot Shop and the facility at Slippery Rock University a training center for water filter technicians.
The press that we use in Braddock was designed and adapted by Manny Hernandez, a professor of art from Northern Illinois University. He and
Honduran potter Maximo Andreus built the machine at Slippery Rock this summer. Last year, Ron Rivera died from a disease contracted in Africa, where he worked on the water filters. Our exhibition is dedicated to Ron’s memory. Don Gould of Forest Hills, who was killed in a tragic accident two years ago, was instrumental in connecting Rotary to the water filter project. We continue to be inspired by their vision as we strive to bring clean water to people in need."

Water Filter Workshop "MLK Day" Americorps Volunteers Workshop led by Jeff Schwarz
Americorps volunteer sifting saw dust. The saw dust is mixed
into the clay body to enable water to filtrate through the
ceramic filters.

Jonathan Schwarz, ceramic studio technician, demonstrates
to volunteers how to mix clay used in making the ceramic water filters.

After the clay is mixed it is wedged into thick patties before it is taken to be pressed into a form of a water filter.

Jeff Schwarz, ceramic studio coordinator at the library, puts the
clay onto a mold and uses a filter press to form the water filters.

The ceramic water filters are pressed and set to dry. The filters
are later trimmed and fired in the ceramic studio's gas kiln.

Photographs by Tom Gaudi