Though initial speculation placed blame for the fire on a kiln, a local fire inspector developed a theory that put the start of the blaze near the roof, 20 yards away from any of the studio's kilns.
"We think it was a motor on a tank that was stirring glazes," Campbell explains. "I have some glazes that have problems with suspension, and I stir them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We think that the motor may have had something on top of it-like an apron or a jacket or a piece of newspaper-that helped the fire along."
Despite losses exceeding $1 million, Campbell was able to salvage several items from the building.
"The back of the building and anything that was on the second floor was burned," Campbell says, "But there was a mezzanine floor that shielded some of the equipment on the first floor, including our filter press, pugmill, pre-pug equipment and a big RAM press."
Campbell says that insurance covered much of the cost of the building and its contents, and he eventually expects to be compensated for part of the studio's lost income. But as any business owner faced with calamity will tell you, insurance is not a cure-all; it may cover the loss of material things, but it can never make up for lost time.
Campbell sums it up best. "If you have to wait six months to get back in business," he says, "you'll lose your business."
"Fortunately, we owned more than one building," Campbell says. "The fire destroyed the building that housed the manufacturing. However, our mold shop and the building that contains much of our finished work was untouched.
"We were able to use that work to send to our customers as though nothing had happened for one week. Then we started running out of this and that, and by the end of six or seven weeks, we had run out of enough products that it was difficult to ship anything," he says.
Luckily, Campbell had turned his attention to manufacturing new pieces of his Flambeaux pottery line through an impromptu production process well before his surplus began to dwindle.
"I set myself up with some new electric kilns in another warehouse area that I had and quickly made some new molds that would temporarily enable us to make the cast portion of the Flambeaux line," Campbell says. "I was actually back in the manufacturing business within a month after the fire."
Having regained roughly 25% of his pre-fire production numbers (a feat he equates to making a ship sink "more slowly"), Campbell set his sights on finding a nearby building to house his revamped studio. He settled on a former Carnation Milk facility, a 38,000-square-foot behemoth that easily eclipsed the 7500 square feet of his former workspace.
"This is a much more modern and suitable building than the building that burned down," Campbell says of his new facility. "As soon as we settled on this building, we went to work just as fast and as hard as we could to get it ready for production work. We used a contractor to help us with part of it, and many of our own people volunteered to come in here and put this place in order, get it painted and get it going. You would be amazed. This place looks like it's been in business for years."
Though the new studio features much of the same equipment-including RAM presses, casting benches and spray booths-as that of its predecessor, one element plays a particularly important role in Campbell's manufacturing process: the gas kiln.
"I had to have a gas kiln because there are certain decorative effects that I can only get by firing with gas," Campbell explains. "At the end of the firing, I need a flame that is sloppy enough that I've got a lot of free carbon floating around in the atmosphere that will change the colors of the glazes."
"Most of my shops want to have whatever they're going to have in their stores by Black Friday," Campbell says, referring to the day after Thanksgiving traditionally known as the biggest shopping day of the year. "After that, we went back to five days a week."
"If you start going to the next level, you have to have a lot more people, a lot more managers," Campbell says. "I don't mind the studio growing 5 or 10% a year, but I don't want to go to yet another really big level because I'm not anxious to create those kind of problems. I'd rather enjoy what I have."
For more information about Campbell Pottery Studios, visit http://www.campbellpottery.com .
Clay Press - RAM (http://www.ramprocess.com ): "The RAM Press makes open objects very well."
Gas Kiln - Pyrotech Services (http://www.pyrotechservices.com ): "There are a minimum of 600 pieces in my gas kiln every day. It'll be the last kiln I'll ever buy."
Electric Kilns - L&L Kilns (http://www.hotkilns.com ): "I use electric kilns for crystalline glazes. They're wonderful kilns. I have six altogether."
Spray Booths - Newell Welding (http://www.newweld.com ): "I have two booths. We're probably spraying 800 to 1000 pieces a day, at a minimum."
Filter Presses - Netzsch Inc. (http://www.netzschusa.com )/Andritz Group (http://www.andritz.com )*: "These are really good presses. We use a filter press to make our plastic clay and to take all of the floc out of the water that comes out of the spray booths. All of the wastewater from the studio-with the exception of the water that goes through the toilets-goes through one of the filter presses so that we can reclaim as much water as possible."
*Andritz Group acquired Netzsch's Filtration Business Unit in August 2004 and now supplies these filter presses and other filtration equipment.