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Karen Schlichting’s oven unveiled

Born out of a one year mentorship with Mentoring Women for Women’s Art three years ago,  Karen Schlichting’s 4000 pound, hand built portable bread oven will take its first trip out of the back lane this Thursday June 23.  Karen with the generous help of a Manitoba Arts Council Craft Grant started construction of the oven in September 2010.  The final stages of the oven completion involved mounting thousands of tiny hand-cut glass mosaic tiles to draw some attention to bread oven itself.

Built on a tailored-made welded steel tailer to house this concrete, rebar, fire brick, insulation, galvanized tin and glass structure, Karen will be firing the oven up for a pizza making blitz for the opening of Mantioba Craft Council’s show “Make Stop Repeat” opening at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery at 600 Shaftesbury Blvd. 7 – 9 pm.

Karen’s oven – front view

The inspiration for the oven came from baking bread for the past five years with her friend Hal Loewen in his outdoor wood-fired oven.  The quest for beautiful and fabulous bread, combined with some activist tendancies and art resulted in this oven on wheels.  The neighbourhood has been watching this oven unfold over the last ten months – patiently waiting for its completion and eager to sink their teeth into some actual artisan bread or pizza.  One neighbour commented as Karen was putting the final pieces of glass “This is the most beautiful oven ever and I bet someone’s going to take it away and put it in a museum”.  Karen’s desire for art to be fully experienced, smelt, tasted and for people to have witness to the the process was an important combination for her.

Karen’s oven – back view

“The back lane is our closest experience of ‘the commons’ in our capitalist landscape.  We all use the space, clean up the space, glean from its excesses and suffer together when things start to rot. Its a great equalizer.  Living across the street from a city park, I tend to find myself wanting to hang out in the back lane over the beautiful landscaped park scape.  The back ally’s not particularly attractive in any way but its a place to make good things.”

This summer Karen hopes to plan several ‘bread actions’ where the oven will appear in random locations around the city.  Hot fresh bread is something that needs to be shared so that’s what she plans to do with it.

For more information about the oven call Karen Schlichting at 772-9610 or email

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