Fired Up

Students to help re-ignite ancient ceramics process by constructing kiln in Sharon

July 31. 2014 9:07AM

Heating up studies in ceramics at the New Hampshire Institute of Art students this month will re-ignites a community firing process developed in Japan more than 1,000 years ago.

Institute professor John Baymore will helm the project, in which students in the institute’s bachelor of fine arts program will build a Japanese Anagama wood-burning kiln on the grounds of its Sharon Arts Center campus in Peterborough as part of their curriculum.

“This is the culmination of several years of planning, and it is hard to believe we are finally at this point, breaking ground,” said Maureen Mills, chair of the ceramics department at the institute, which also includes operations in Manchester and Peterborough. “Access to a kiln of this caliber and quality is rare, and we are very excited to share it with other members of the local arts community. We have hopes of firing this kiln often.”

“Anagama” — a Japanese term meaning “cave kiln” — refers to a single-chamber furnace built with a sloping, shaped tunnel and fueled with firewood, in contrast to the electric or gas kilns commonly used by most contemporary artists. The process, brought to Japan in the fifth century, consists of a firing chamber with a firebox at one end and a flue at the other.

“However, there is no physical structure separating the stoking space from the pottery space,” program officials said in unveiling the project. “Stoking occurs around the clock until a variety of variables are achieved.

“The placement of pieces within the kiln distinctly affects the pottery’s appearance, as pieces closer to the firebox may receive heavy coats of ash, or even be immersed in embers, while others deeper in the kiln may only be softly touched by ash effects,” program officiasl said. “Additionally, where pieces are placed in the kiln affects the flame path, varying the final appearance of each piece within.”

The length of firing depends on the volume of the kiln and may take anywhere from 48 hours to 12 or more days. The kiln generally takes the same amount of time to cool.

Events surrounding the construction and use of the kiln will take place in the day time. Stop by and watch faculty and students as they construct floors, walls and arches of the structure beginning on Sunday, Aug. 10. Dedication is scheduled to take place Saturday, Aug. 23, with loading of the kiln set for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11-12, and firing slated for Thursday, Oct. 30, through Saturday, Nov. 2.

“This dynamic and enigmatic kiln will be firing over the course of approximately four days, slowly building temperature toward 2,400 Fahrenheit while leaving its trace of fire and ash on each piece in the kiln,” program officials said. “The public is invited to observe this focused and intense process.”

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