By Aliya Hall

Firespeaking does more than just create an efficient heating system. It builds the heart of the home, Max Edleson says.

“It’s both a functional and aesthetic masterpiece for the home,” he says. “A center in good times for radiant heat, and when the power goes out or the grid is unavailable, it can do its job without interruption.”

Photo by Dominick Barbero

Max and his wife, Eva, are the co-owners of Firespeaking, where they produce custom masonry heaters and wood-fired stoves, as well as natural finishes. The Edlesons also own Long Table Farm, where they sell farm-to-table wood-fired cuisine for special events.

For 15 years, Firespeaking has been focused on “providing a tangible solution to important needs, like cooking and heating, by using sustainably sourced fuel,” Max says. Their work can mostly be categorized as architectural with a strong emphasis on natural building techniques.

Max is a professional builder and artist whose skills include masonry and carpentry, while Eva specializes in earthen wall systems. Max describes Firespeaking as a “design-build” company because they like to think about the flow and usage of the space where the heater will be located.

Photo by Dominick Barbero

Different from wood stoves, masonry heaters are efficient wood-burning appliances that utilize radiant heat, and have been used worldwide for centuries. Because of the heater’s ability to store large amounts of heat, one two-hour fire can keep a house warm for 24 hours. Max explains that masonry heaters burn wood rapidly and cleanly, expelling the gases produced through a labyrinth of channels before exiting through the chimney. The heat is stored within the masonry thermal mass and slowly radiates out for the next several hours at a fairly constant temperature.

“It’s like turning a chimney into a pretzel,” he says.

Eva elaborates, explaining that there are different styles of heaters—some use flooring or a bench, for example, but they all store the heat and emanate radiant heat out, similar to the sun.

“So our bodies respond to it,” Eva says. “Experiencing the warmth, you can notice the difference. It’s a lovely, subtle, encompassing heat. Like any type of fire, you want to be close to it, but this one you can actually touch. It warms the home in a different way than any other type of electric source.”

Photo by Dominick Barbero

These heating systems are more common in Europe than the US, because they need to be assembled and designed by artisan crafters—they’re not typically mass-produced. It’s also less a “trendy aesthetic” than a long-term solution that can provide clean heat for generations, and it requires an investment.

“A large part of the work is education,” Max says.

There are two parts to the masonry heater, the core and facing, with an expansion joint between the two to stabilize the expanding and contracting that happens when working with heat. Eva says that for the facing side of the heater, they focus on using local wood, stone, clay, and other natural materials. The Edlesons say they are dedicated to combining the inspiration of natural beauty with functional precision and engineering to create magic and sacredness within daily life.

“We’re inspired by the gift that is this life, and we try to reflect that gift in our work,” Max says. “That inspires us to consider beauty and design in life. It’s the pursuit of any artist to remind us and help us feel more alive.“

Photo by Dominick Barbero

Firespeaking also crafts wood-fired ovens for backyards, communities, and even commercial ovens. “It’s just fascinating how wood-fired ovens are magnets for the community,” Max says.

Firespeaking works with the clients and a team of contractors to design and build the masonry heaters. Eva says they look at a client’s needs, the amount of space, and whether the project involves retrofitting or new construction.

The Edlesons agree that the most rewarding aspect of their work is the relationships they build with their clients.

“The process of first envisioning and then creating these masonry heaters or outdoor kitchen wood-fired ovens, it informs a close relationship of us as builders and clients,” Max says. “It feels rewarding that things we do continue to provide comfort and are an important part of people’s lives.”

Firespeaking | 89242 Fir Butte Rd. | 541/632-3028