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

By March 20, 2010Blog

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