Fuel – The Charcoal Project

Salt Spring artists and Gulf Islands Secondary School students exhibit drawings incorporating charcoal excavated from 100 year old kilns.


About the charcoal

Some of the pioneers from Japan who came to British Columbia in the late 1800s and early 1900s brought with them the ancient technology for making charcoal in large stone pits. Two of these charcoal kilns were built by Isaburo Tasaka, who arrived on Salt Spring with his family in 1905. These charcoal kilns, located in what is now Mouat Park, have recently been excavated and restored.

Tasaka produced charcoal from alder wood in the off-season from fishing. The charcoal was used as a fuel for salmon canning, soap-making and blacksmithing. This form of charcoal was also used for cooking and in the manufacture of explosives.

The restoration of the charcoal pit kilns was initiated by Rose Murakami and Rumiko Kanesaka, and carried out in partnership with the Salt Spring Parks and Recreation Commission and the Japanese Garden Society.

About the art project

Local artist Gillian McConnell has been working with students from Grades 9 – 12 through the Salt Spring Arts Council’s Artist in the Class program. The 4 day,  expressive charcoal drawing workshop has enabled students to explore mark-making, tonal value, composition and concept using kiln, vine and compressed charcoal in preparation for final works interpreting the theme of FUEL.

Fuel provides us with the energy to create, preserve and to destroy. We are born with the ability to create art, community and life itself. As individuals, nations and a species, we make daily choices to preserve or destroy what we create, each other and our world.

About the exhibition

Student works will be on display in the Multi-purpose room at GISS on Sunday, 4 October, in conjunction with the SSNAP Curators Panel – In and out of the box—Engaging in Contemporary Art.

Selected student works will be exhibited with works by 5 local artists, including McConnell and GISS art teacher, Peter Legun, in the Program Room at Salt Spring Island Public Library, for the month of October. Exhibition open Monday through Saturday from 10am – 5pm.

Both art exhibitions include photographs of the kiln excavation project and information about this legacy left by early Japanese settlers.

Take a tour of the charcoal kilns with Rose Murakami and Rumiko Kanesaka. Tours start in Mouat Park (Seaside Drive parking lot) at 10am on Sunday, 4 October and 18 October.

Learn more about the history of the kilns, the charcoal project and the art program at Gulf Islands Secondary School at the Charcoal Project art talk in the library program room– Wednesday 7 October at 6pm.