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back in the usa from japan / kanayama residency firings

updated sat 7 aug 04


John Baymore on mon 2 aug 04

Welcome home, John. I'd love to hear about any firings that you
participated in. I've been off Clayart for a few months myself.....glad t=
be back !


Hi. Thanks for the "welcome". Welcome back to you too .

While at the residency at Kanayama in Goshogawara-shi, we were able to fi=
our work four times
..... in three different kilns. All were yakishime.... no glaze.... but
each of the three kilns produced quite different finish effects on the
work. (You can see a lot of photos documenting the program on the calend=
page at the webiste. Roll the mouse over the day y=
want to look at...and the cursor changes to a pointer.... click and you g=
teh thumbnails for the day.)

The wood selection for all firings was mainly red pine. All of the wood
used was offcuts from saw mills or from construction lumber. The
Aomori-ken region is HEAVILY forrested =

with red pine. It looks like being in the pacific northwest or northern
Maine or something. In fact...... some of the construction wood offcuts =
used early in the firngs was actually American pine! I felt right at hom=
. Matsumiya-san gets all of this wood for free.

The first firing we did was of an anagama type kiln that is pretty much a=

totally unique design by Matsumiya Ryoji . I will be writing an article =
this kiln with photos and dimensions and such since he has give me his
permission to do so (a book is being written on it in Japan)..... so I
don't want to give too much info here. Not fair to the eventual publishe=
. Suffice it to say it is a pretty unique adaptation of an idea that
has been around for a long time . It is a big kiln by many people's
standards... but not really big.... two people could be in it loading....=

but it was a tight space. Basically it is a cross between an anagama and=
groundhog kiln, if you had to describe the basic "look" of the unit. The=

way it is designed... it is more firebox than stacking space . With a=

pretty short cycle (3 days), it produces wonderful ash effects that mimic=

much longer firings. It produces mainly a natural youhen effect. It
certainly wouldn't be the "kiln for everybody"...... but it is a really
interesting concept and design. While it was easy to get this kiln to
climb....... this was a very "hands on" kiln to fire.... particularly whe=
we are stoking on the "top grate"....... which was very hot business.

The second firing we participated in was of what is called the "small"
noborigama there. "Small" is a relative term . My noborigama here in=

NH is "small" from my point of view. There is NO comparison between the
two ! There aren't too many climbing kilns in North America the size=

of this "small" kiln there . My guess is that it is about 5 times the=

total size of your groundhog and my noborigama. Maybe more.

That firing we were responsible for one chamber of the kiln........
loading, firing, doing the youhen charcoal, and unloading. The chambers
are large.... so there was plenty of room for the work we had all produce=
and had gotten dry. Three people could be in the chamber loading and not=

knock into each other badly. The overall cycle for the firing was about =
days going up. Our chamber required about 24 hours of stoking....... wit=
two of us on per shift. The kiln was mostly stoked from both sides.
It too was a very responsive kiln.... and the "pace" was quite easygoin=
The firing is all yakishime (no glaze) and the pieces are all finished (=
the Bizenyaki tradition) by covering them with wood charcoal at Seger con=
10 1/2. The charcoal is introduced through special ports left in the kil=
wall. (This is the finishing technique that I have been utilizing in the=

last 2 chambers of my noborigama since I was in Goshogawara-shi in the
summer of 2002....see my website for some pictures of the process.)

The third firing we did was of the unique Fred Olsen kiln that was built =
Kanayama last summer. The Olsen kiln there is basically two kilns combin=
with each other. One "axis" is an anagama... and the other "axis" is a
groundhog kiln (sort of like yours ). It is pretty large....... we ha=
5 people inside it loading with the rest feeding pots in to us. It has t=
main fireboxes at right angles to each other and two sets of exit flues i=
line with each firebox. So in the center of the chamber the possible fla=
path is flowing from two directions at 90 degrees to each other. It was =
VERY complex kiln to stack... as you considered the flame flow from two
fireboxes. The firing was for a little over three days. We took the kil=
up to 1100 C over about 1 1/2 days and then held it there (+/- 25) for
about 26 hours. During that holding time, we alternated stoking from one=

firebox with the corresponding flues open... and the others shut down....=

and then reversed the situation every 6 hours. Then we fired from both
fireboxes to bring the kiln to temp at the end.

The fourth firing was again in the small noborigama...... and was partly
concurrent with the Olsen Kiln firing
. Again we had one chamber with our work in it. =

We also left a lot of work still drying that will then be fired after we
left. =

During the residency, at one point there were three large wood kilns all
firing at the same time at Kanayama. Smoke everywhere you looked . =

Matsumiya-san said that having two of the kilns firing at the same time w=
not all that uncommon. But that three was kinda' rare.

Because of their regular production schedule at this point in time....
almost any time you would visit Kanayama... there would be a climbing kil=
firing. The are supplying not only their own gallery .... but have about=

200 shops handling the work in Japan and now some in Korea. The basic
firing cycle there is 7-8 days ... and there are four large kilns for the=

main use of the production facility and apprentices and resident potters.=

That's one kiln firing, one kiln cooling, one kiln being loaded, and one
kiln being unloaded and cleaned up for the next firing.
At "crunch times"..... there is more than on kiln firing at a time.

In the past 15 years, Matsumiya-san said he has overseen about 700
noborigama firings at Kanayama!!!!! I know of NO ONE that has had that
kind of experience firing wood kilns.
To see him working with a wood kiln... whether stoking or placing
charcoal on pieces.... is to watch a virtuoso dance. =

So... there is a bit of info for ya' Merrie (and everyone else)...... mo=
coming as I get a chance.



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

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

"Earth, Water, and Fire Noborigama Woodfiring Workshop: August 20-29,

Merrie Boerner on fri 6 aug 04

Hi John,
Thanks for the post about the woodfirings !
I visited the web site, but didn't get much past Tony's smiling face. My
time on the computer is limited, and I actually have to print out the
Clayart post that I want to read so I can take them with me. I really miss
the spontaneity of reading, reacting, and replying.
Years ago, I was visiting a web site of a potter who owned an anagama in
Japan. I e-mailed some questions, and he was kind to reply. One piece of
information that I remember is that he said he stacked his vessels on a sand
floor. Did you see this in the kilns that you fired, or was wadding used ?
Please write about the stacking.

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