The kiln is a wood firing Japanese style tunnel kiln (anagama) 10m long, 1.3m wide, 1m tall, similar to that style of kiln used in Korea & Japan 1000 years ago. I built this kiln with help from my friends, in 1987 using 28 tons of high temperature brick salvaged from an abandoned industrial site (bricks that I collected, brick by brick, truck load by truck load over the previous five years!). The kiln is covered with an outer layer of insulation brick and adobe. The traditional kiln design was modified to suit my own needs: a large opening to fit big pieces, a gentle slope to create a slow draft during firing to achieve the soft effects that compliment my work.
The kiln holds hundred of pieces, from tiny sake cups to life-size figures. The unglazed work is fired with wood in a week long firing, using 6 - 8 tons of wood. It takes a week to load, each piece being placed carefully with consideration for heat flow, clay type, shape, and temperature, as each piece effects and is effected by the pieces around it. The higher temperature clays fired in the front half of the kiln come to life with the heavy ash deposits and crusty textures left from the coals. My figures of a lower temperature clay with a high iron content, are best fired in the back half of the kiln, where the soft clay colors and gentle ash deposits become an integral part of each piece.
The beginning gentle fire in front dries and slowly heats up the kiln. With the team of four ceramic artists, working in two 12 hour shifts, day & night over the week, the kiln eventually heats up to 2250 F in front. In the last couple of days wood is stoked into the side stoke holes to bring the temperature up in back to 2150 F.
After the firing is finished, for a week we rest, clean up, and wait.... while the kiln cools enough to open. Then in one day we unload all the work, paying close attention to the results and how the firing effected each piece. A gentle cleaning reveals the real nature of the work.
Even after 40 years of wood firing, it is still a thrill!
Next: Bronze casting