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Ancient Japanese kiln to be built at Sharon Arts Center

Students in the N.H. Institute of Art’s BFA program will be constructing an anagama kiln on the grounds of the Sharon Arts Center campus. An anagama kiln is 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 kiln is being built under the direction of Institute ceramics professor John Baymore, with the construction being completed by students through a kiln building course, part of the ceramics curriculum.

The anagama kiln is an ancient type of pottery kiln brought to Japan in the 5th century. An anagama (a Japanese term meaning “cave kiln”) 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. 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. 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.

“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. “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.”

All events, except for the firing of the kiln, which will go on 24 hours per day, will take place during the daytime. The events surrounding the construction and use of the kiln are as follows:

Aug. 10-23: Kiln building with BFA students — The Institute’s BFA kiln building class will be building a traditional Japanese anagama wood-burning pottery kiln. The community is invited to stop by during the day to observe faculty and students as they construct floor, walls and arches of this dynamic structure.

Aug. 23 : ClayFest — Completing the Anagama kiln. Join the Sharon Arts Center during the third annual ClayFest celebration for the completion and dedication of the anagama kiln.

Oct. 11-12: Loading the Anagama Kiln — Stop by to observe faculty and students during this intricate and complicated process of loading prepared work into the firing chamber of the kiln. This will take place during both days of this holiday weekend.

Oct. 30-Nov. 2: Firing the Anagama Kiln — This dynamic and enigmatic kiln will be firing over the course of approximately four days, slowly building temperature toward 2400 degrees Fahrenheit while leaving its trace of fire and ash on each piece in the kiln. The public is invited to observe this focused and intense process.

Nov. 8: Unloading the Anagama Kiln — The kiln will be cooling all week and will likely still be warm when the pots come out. The day starts early and continues until the kiln is empty and the site cleaned up.

Every kiln is always a surprise when it’s unloaded. The community is invited to celebrate.

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