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Firing the Anagama Kiln (Te Hanui, Horokiwi, Wellington)

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I’ve just come off of a 6-hour shift with a team of fellow potters firing a wood-fired Japanese Anagama cave kiln. I have 13 pieces in the kiln so really looking forward to the kiln opening in a week’s time for see results.

The chimney flame from outside, 6am

Fire Master Shige Ohashi in the firing pit

This is the 6th firing of the Anagama which is located on a farm outside Wellington in the Horokiwi area. Big and hungry for fuel it produced a deep growling noise as it consumes wood. The ash from the wood swirls around the kiln and deposits on pots to melt and form glaze. “The great appeal of Anagama firing is its total unpredictability so that each piece is unique in its character and can never be repeated.  Deliberately inefficient and taking considerable amounts of wood, an Anagama kiln will reveal the effects of flame, ash and vitrification that make the wares unique” (Chester Nealie).

Shige stoking the main chamber

Side stoking port

The wood took several months to gather, cut and split. So far the kiln’s devoured 6 pallets of split wood. Amazing! We fed around 8 logs in each front and side stoking chambers every three minutes.

Shige taking some time to hear the Anagama

Firing the Anagama is a remarkable collaborative effort. It only gets fired once a year. Shige the Fire Master took 13 hours a day for one entire week to carefully pack the kiln. There’s probably over 400 pieces inside.

My first crack at stoking

Flames blowing out the side stoking port

Extremely hot work

It reaches a temperature of around 1250 Deg C and it’s fed wood and kept firing for 100 hours in total. Takes 22 potters to fire it working 6 – 8hr shifts that run 24hrs a day for around 5 days.

Once Shige is happy that the firing is complete he’ll stop the stoking and it will take a week to cool down. We’re scheduled to open the kiln a week on Sunday. Can’t wait.

Top port hole with guide flame

Pots ready for the Anagama kiln

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Finally bisque fired my latest experiments. And now applied two glazes, a Shino and a Tenmoko. They’ll go in the Anagama next week –  a couple of weeks from now will feel like Christmas day!!  I am also throwing in a couple of old pieces, already glaze fired, just to see what the Anagama’s wood firing atmosphere does with the glaze.

Throwing grogged stoneware

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I’m in pain. Never threw such heavily grogged stoneware in my life. Feel like I just joined a gym and Jet Li’s the instructor! Had huge fun though. Took me till mid night to turn the bases on this session. I also tried faceting a vase – successfully I thought.

Yunomi (Japanese Tea Cups)

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I tried my hand at making a few ‘Yunomi’. I love green tea in the evenings and usually have it from one of Andrew Walford’s Yunomi’s. I threw these from the hump and used really heavily grogged stoneware sculpture clay. Also throwing them all wonky and altering the form afterwards too – an experiment in organic modeling. I may fire these in the Te Hanui Anagama kiln  next month. Will see how they fare.

My Pottery Marks

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An antiques dealer (Kerrod Antiques) in South Africa is putting a guide together on Southern African Ceramic artists’ potters marks. Here’s my two principal ones used.

I used this between 1986–2009

My new 2010 and onwards pottery mark

New Year. New Clay. Back in.

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Finally got my hands into the mud this year. Looking forward to a good year of potting and see where it might go. Bought some JB1 Porcelain from Wellington Potters’ Supplies in Khandallah. Nice people.