Anagama Ave

Anagama Ave.

The anagama kiln (Japan­ese: 穴窯) is an ancient type of pot­tery kiln brought to Japan from China via Korea in the 5th century.

An anagama (a Japan­ese term mean­ing “cave kiln”) con­sists of a fir­ing cham­ber with a fire­box at one end and a flue at the other. Although the term “fire­box” is used to describe the space for the fire, there is no phys­i­cal struc­ture sep­a­rat­ing the stok­ing space from the pot­tery space. The term anagama describes single-chamber kilns built in a slop­ing tun­nel shape. In fact, ancient kilns were some­times built by dig­ging tun­nels into banks of clay.

The anagama is fueled with fire­wood, in con­trast to the elec­tric or gas-fueled kilns com­monly used by most con­tem­po­rary pot­ters. A con­tin­u­ous sup­ply of fuel is needed for fir­ing, as wood thrown into the hot kiln is con­sumed very rapidly. Stok­ing occurs round the clock until a vari­ety of vari­ables are achieved includ­ing the way the molten pots look inside the kiln, the tem­per­a­tures reached and sus­tained, the amount of ash applied, the wet­ness of the walls and the pots, etc.

Burn­ing wood not only pro­duces heat of up to 1400°C (2,500 °F), it also pro­duces fly ash and volatile salts. Wood ash set­tles on the pieces dur­ing the fir­ing, and the com­plex inter­ac­tion between flame, ash, and the min­er­als of the clay body forms a nat­ural ash glaze. This glaze may show great vari­a­tion in color, tex­ture, and thick­ness, rang­ing from smooth and glossy to rough and sharp. The place­ment of pieces within the kiln dis­tinctly affects the pottery’s appear­ance, as pieces closer to the fire­box may receive heavy coats of ash, or even be immersed in embers, while oth­ers deeper in the kiln may only be softly touched by ash effects. Other fac­tors that depend on the loca­tion include tem­per­a­ture and oxidation/reduction. Besides loca­tion in the kiln, (as with other fuel-fired updraft kilns) the way pieces are placed near each other affects the flame path, and, thus, the appear­ance of pieces within local­ized zones of the kiln can vary as well. It is said that load­ing an anagama kiln is the most dif­fi­cult part of the fir­ing. The pot­ter must imag­ine the flame path as it rushes through the kiln, and use this sense to paint the pieces with fire.

The length of the fir­ing depends on the vol­ume of the kiln and may take any­where from 48 hours to 12 or more days. The kiln gen­er­ally takes the same amount of time to cool down. Records of his­toric fir­ings in large Asian kilns shared by sev­eral vil­lage pot­ters describe sev­eral weeks of steady stok­ing per firing.

Explore a Dif­fer­ent Street

Artists booths on Anagama Alley:

30. Rabun Thomp­son
31. Linda Heis­er­man
32.Theresa Smith
33.Christopher Schwartz
34.Peter Meyer
35. Frank Gosar
36. Kristy Lom­bard
37.Richard Roth
75.Michale Moul­let II