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pat southwood's post: woodfiring and walmart

updated mon 8 sep 03


Vince Pitelka on fri 5 sep 03

Pat -
I usually quote some of the post I am replying to, but your wonderful post
from the UK contained so much fascinating stuff that I couldn't quote it
all. Your post shows how the situation is completely different in each area
of the world. In Japan they had to regulate wood firing rather severely a
long time ago, except in the outlying areas where wood is still abundant.
Your story about the cost of wood to heat your studio really strikes to the
core. No wonder wood firing is impractical in your area. I already feel
lucky for so many reasons, but this is one more to add to the list. Our
wood is free, as much as we want, whenever we want. We take sawmill
trimmings by the dumptruck load, and we take trees which have been cut down
for a multitude of reasons - widening highways, clearing land, natural
windfalls, old dead trees, etc. We never cut down greenwood, unless someone
asks us to do it for them when trees are slated for removal. So, we only
burn trees that are already down, or would be taken down anyway. It really
is an embarassment of riches.

If you ever come to the US I hope you will come visit us. You will not
believe the amount of forest around here in the Mid-South, and very little
of it is useable for the wood products industry. It simply grows and
dies - that is part of a natural cycle, and I am comfotable with that. I do
not agree with the Capitalist Western Expansionist notion that we are here
to make maximum use of natural resources. On the contrary, we have already
taken far more than our fair share, and ought to just back off and conserve
what little is left.

I hope you can find out more about the "photo-remediators." I have never
heard of that, but perhaps it is more prevalent in the UK, what with so many
more centuries of use on the land. It sounds fascinating.
Best wishes -
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Craft
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
Home -
Office -
615/597-6801 x111, FAX 615/597-6803

Lee Love on sat 6 sep 03

----- Original Message -----
From: "Vince Pitelka"

> of the world. In Japan they had to regulate wood firing rather severely a
> long time ago, except in the outlying areas where wood is still abundant.

They didn't regulate wood firing because of a lack of wood. I thought
they shut down the large wood firing kilns in Kyoto and Tokyo for the same
reason they won't let you fire one in D.C. or Manhattan. There is lotsa
Japan outside of Tokyo and Kyoto. Because of the high density of the
urban areas and how they pack the rural communities close together, there is
a lot of green space in Japan. Only a few percent of the land is
inhabited, actually.

You know, its funny. When I lived in America, I was under the
impression that there were no trees left in Japan. Actually, there are
lots of trees here. Every mountain is full of them. The Japanese just
seem to prefer to buy cheap wood from overseas.

I burn scrap in my kiln from a cabinet factory. The wood is free,
I just have to pay for delivery. This wood comes from Canada.. I don't
believe England has any handicap compared to Japan where the ability to
import is concerned.

Lee In Mashiko

John Baymore on sun 7 sep 03


In Japan they had to regulate wood firing rather severely a long time ago=
except in the outlying areas where wood is still abundant.


To my understanding, wood firing is only "regulated" in certain areas of
Japan. Ive seen a lot going on when there. But nothing like in the
"historical" past. The Japan of even Leach and Hamada's writings is pret=
much "gone"........ in more ways than one........ things are changing fas=
there. =

Even in the middle of pretty good sized towns like Mashiko (quite large
population wise) there are plenty of wood kilns still being fired. Much =
the "regulation" you hear about is for air quality reasons in areas that
have problems from MANY sources....not just kilns. Many potters in Japan=

are also not firing with wood because it is typically EXPENSIVE to do tha=
There may be a lot of money to be made in selling pots in Japan.... but=

it is also VERY competitive.... and many materials are quite "dear" when
compared to here in the USA. Setting up a studio in Japan can be a prett=
expensive endeavor compared to the US....... unless you are astute and a=

good "scrounger". A large kiln that is very wood =
anagama..... not only would be expensicve to build... but VERY expensive =

to get the huge volume of quality wood to fire it (or very time consuming=

to scrounge the wood from cheaper sources).

The Kyoto area is a great and well known example of the shutting down of
wood kilns....... but it is only one section of Japan. The general Kyoto=

area sort of resembles the Salt Lake City area here in the USA. It is a
big "basin" with surrounding mountains and highlands. There is a huge
poplulation density there...and lots of heavy industry and cars. Air
pollution of ALL sorts just settles in there and doesn't go away. Lots o=
inversions. I was there in the fall of 96....... unfortunately didn't ge=
back there last summer. Back then the air was so bad my eyes were stingi=
every day. But even with the air restrictions in place in that area....=

every morning I would walk from my ryokan to the train station....about a=

mile and a half. I would pass the little old ladies merrily burning the
household trash every morning in little piles by the side of the road in
front of the houses...... plastic and such, metal cans,.... and so on. =

Sort of like the USA in the 50's. I'd also pass huge smouldering piles o=
rice husks and straw in the paddys. I'd see the small businesses with
their little metal incinerators out back also burning the trash.

I visited many beautiful climbing kilns in the Kyoto area that sat dorman=
and had for years. Most potters there were firing electric, gas, and
limitedly with oil. Many reduction electric kilns were in use. Some of
the best celadon porcelain I saw in Japan was fired in electric reduction=


On the flip side of the coin....... the day I arrived in Mashiko last
summer I was greeted by a huge plume of balck smoke rising right in the
center of town. Only one of MANY wood fired kilns there and in the
surrounding environs. Mashiko is not really all that much "out in the
boonies"....... about 100 K from the massive sprawl that is "Tokyo". Fro=
the location of the smoke that day I would guess that it was probably the=

Daisei noborigama kiln....a pretty big one....10 chambers if I remember
correctly. I hoped to get over to see them firing or unloading or
something.... I had made some friends there in 96..... but ended up so bu=
with other things that I never got the chance before I had to leave
Mashiko. Oh well. The other stuff more than made up for missing that >.

Up in Aomori-ken (ken=3Dprefecture) where the international Wood Fire
Festival was held last summer...... the general area sort of resembles th=
American West....... like maybe around Rocky Mountain National Park. It =

forrested.....and very beautiful. LOTS of open area despite the huge
population. Probably looks like your neck of the woods too. There are
HUGE areas of trees there. Massive forrests of red pine (what we were
firing the kilns with).
Interestingly, most of the wood used at the Kanayama Ceramic center up
there is also scrap wood from the lumber industry there. It was mentione=
during my talks with Matsumiya-san, the organizer of the Festival, that a=

lot of southern Japan was having a blight hitting the red pine...... but
that it was not happening (yet) in the northeren part.

The open land in Japan is common. The Japanese tend to live clustered
together. If you gave 100 Japanese 100 acres to live on...... they'd
probably all live on three acres of it and leave the rest as more natural=

land. Interesting cultural phenomona.



John Baymore
River Bend Pottery
22 Riverbend Way
Wilton, NH 03086-5812 USA

603-654-2752 (studio)
800-900-1110 (studio)