I would build a simple catenary arch form and build it out of raw brick. Then look at a drip oil system and use some diesels and cooking oil. That sounds like the cheeps source of fuel you have. Maybe some propane burners to get it rolling. Check out drip systems and a very slow fire schedule so you don't blow up your raw brick. Build a small one first and see how it goes. Do a web search on a catenary arch and check out how to build the form. Here is a fantastic link for oil drip.
So many directions you can go with tile. High output and non custom are hard to compete with on the price break. But custom tile work takes on many different directions. Are you willing to take custom orders for abstract and representational work on the tile? Are your painting and drawing skills developed enough for that kind of work? I guess a few questions are needed to asked of yourself. Architectural tile is different than floor, counter top and backsplash tile. Sculpted tile or molded tiles compared to floor tile or other "flat" tile take on different characteristics in relationship to clay body, firing temps, and drying techniques. In floor tile or "flat" tile drying evenly and using a good tile body are the most important issues one needs to tackle. Paula Winokur, http://www.paulawinokur.com and Peter King http://peterkingcera...tural_ceramics/ are some of the top in architectural tile. Paul Lewing paints mountain scenes on tile... Chris Gustin makes some of the most beautiful tile for bathrooms and floors that I have ever showered over!! http://www.gustinceramics.com/tile/ The history of tiles in our country and abroad is rich. Search out images for Pewabic Tile, Henry Mercer, Moravian Tile works, Gladys McBean http://www.gladdingmcbean.com/aboutus.html to start with. So much to think about in terms of education. I believe that for good architectural tile one of the best routes is to get a BFA at a strong ceramics program and understand sculpture and ceramics. But there are many other routes to education. Apprenticeships, workshops and learning solely through trail and error with good books and internet research are all other possible avenues for your education into the world of tiles. But again it is a very diverse world and so ask some of those questions of yourself. Most importantly, what kind of tile do you want to make.
8000 wow. Really??? So yes I worked at Penland, Haystack, Arrowmont and the Appalachian Center for Crafts. All fantastic! And as far as the costs look into those schools. There are many many more options then there were when I was younger. Anderson Ranch is also a great place! I think it gets down to what technique you are looking at or the person who you may desire to study under. These are concentrated blocks of time and the money is worth it to me if you can swing it. There are also many times opportunities to be a work study student. 8 grand is also around what you may pay as a special student at a university and maybe that could also be another avenue.
As far as reviews... They are all great and it really depends on what you want to learn.