A dialogue between fire and clay: pottery and the appeal of the anagama kiln

With the advent of open fires, humans discovered that clay hardened when it was heated. When the fire place was covered in order to achieve high temperatures more reliably, the kiln was born. In the quest for ever more durable and more beautiful pottery, firing techniques continued to develop and improve. Until relatively recently, when electric and gas kilns came on the scene, the wood fired anagama kiln was commonly used.

Firing an anagama kiln is generally perceived to be inefficient because each firing requires a great deal of wood fuel, is very labour intensive and takes several days. There is also the problem of smoke emissions, so with the growth of cities, they are seen less often. Unlike electric and gas kilns, where the temperature is easily regulated, firing an anagama is extremely skilled work, with very slight adjustments to the fire being achieved through manual intervention. Together with the disappearance of anagama, we are losing traditional craft skills. However, with the application of wood ash, ‘nature’s own glaze’, pottery which has been fired over a long time in heat regulated by skilled craftsmen has a powerful beauty which only nature can produce. For many people, its appeal is irresistible.

In this lecture, Kazuya Ishida, a young, up-and-coming potter from a Bizen-yaki family, who is active both in Japan and overseas, will discuss the attraction of pottery through an introduction to his own work, and from the perspective of the anagama kiln. His mission is to bring the tradition and skills of Bizen pottery to a wider audience and, in doing so, not simply to imitate, but to encourage it to take root locally to create something new which reflects that locality. During this lecture, Kazuya Ishida will demonstrate pottery throwing on a wheel.

Date: Thursday 11 May 2017 6.30pm
Venue: The Swedenborg Society, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London WC1A 2TH

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