‘Anagamania’ -16- 穴窯独り焚き Anagama Firing in Solitude

Recently I received a few messages from Australia. (Gas)

Hello Gas.
I enjoy keeping an eye on your anagama adventures. Thanks for that. I’ve recently buit my own anagama and will be firing it for the second time in a couple of weeks. This time I’ll be on my own. It’s not ideal but I don’t want to wait and I’m interested in seeing if I can do it. I was thinking I’d fire all day and when I get tired I’d stack up the firebox and side stoke and shut up the kiln and get a few hours sleep before doing the same the next day and so on till its done. If you have any advice I’d really appreciate it. Would you do it differently? I’m actually excited about being totally focused like this but am naturally anxious too. I’ve fired smaller kilns before on my own and 36 hrs was my limit but decision making is not so good then so I want to pace myself. Thanks so much for any input you care to offer. You can see the kiln build on my Facebook page to get a look at the kiln. All the best from Australia! (Lise)

Hi Lise,
Many thanks for your message and your interest in my anagama project.
Your idea of firing all along yourself is a brave thought and I like your spirit. Personally I don’t like most party attitude (with friends and spectators) in wood-firing. I prefer shutting the gate with the sign of ‘No visitors. Firing in progress.’ like many potters do in Japan. Just before I answer your question, would it possible to tell me how big your anagama (with side-stokes) is? [I believe I have seen your kiln on Facebook] How long will you fire it from start to finish? Your brave idea also gave me something useful for my 10 day firing (with two people helping me) of my ‘Moby’.

If you don’t mind I would like to write my reply and upload on my Anagama Blog. So more wood-fire enthusiasts may follow our solitary wood-firing. I should be able to write a better reply with more details for you in a week with less English mistakes.(Gas)

Hello again Gas.
I’ve taken measurements of the kiln interior. The area for pot stacking is 1900 cm long with another 1000 firebox. There is a sutema at the end. The pot chamber is 1100 high at the firebox end and 850 high at the rear. The chamber is near 1000 wide at the base all the way through. There is a large spy hole (that could be used as a side stoke) on one side. It is approx 600 before the sutema. I didn’t plan on side stoking when I built the kiln but put it in to add flexibility and in case I decide to salt the back at some point. I am happy for you to use this in your blog for anyone keen or mad enough to want to fire alone. I am flexible about how long to fire. It will depend on energy. 72 hrs sounds reasonable? ? Your input and time is really appreciated. English is my first language and I’m not nearly as articulate as I’d like! (Lise)

How long do you think you will fire Moby ? (Lise)

All my anagama has been firied for 9~10 days. So I needed at least 2 helpers. But I decided not to use helpers are too enthusiastic (if you understand what I mean) and hoping to get a helper from Japan {or at least from Eastern Europe}.
It is difficult to have someone for ten days. My wife will take a 10 days off from her gardening job to assist me. (Gas)

I dream of such a long firing! I admire your energy. My husband is great for shed building. He’s extending the kiln shed for me now so I’ll be able to store a lit more wood. We have goats as pets and they think the kiln is their cubby house so I have to have everything fenced off which is a shame because I love being more open. I enjoy the peace of firing alone as well as being able to think about the firing and make decisions as things happen without having to rely on other people with their own ideas about how to fire. I hope to find a rhythm while firing alone this time as I don’t mind the idea of the temp going up and down. That’s the beauty of a long firing too. We live on 25 acres in a quite isolated spot in the mountains outside Sydney. Our nearest neighbour is 4 klms away. I use a lot if hardwood eucalyptus off our property but have a lot of pine from local tree loppers. (Lise)

Dear Lise,
I am sorry that I am taking time to reply your question but I will post it very soon. You wrote me your second firing was goiong to be in 2 weeks. So I should be giving you some encouraging information. Are you capable of borrowing a oil burner or of buying bottle gas for the next firing of yours? This is important if you would like to do an entire firing alone. I am uploading my post titled ‘Solitude Wood-Firing’ this weekend. It will have your Facebook messages and my responses with some photo images. I am hoping it would help some potters who doesn’t like too many nosy and chatty people around kiln-firing. (Gas)

P.S. – Which season of the year are you having now? (I am just curious.)

Hi Gas.
It’s Winter here and we are in the mountains so it’s cold. I can’t fire in the summer due to fire restrictions. I do have access to gas. I have one big burner. I’m grateful for your input and any advice is appreciated. (Lise)

In Japan it is called ‘Rotary Oil Burner’ which is worth investing your money if you carry on ‘solitary firing’ in the future.

Before I give you my ideas and suggestion. I have to tell you a bad news about solitary firing. Unless it’s Raku firing, you can never stop firing and go to bed for resting. If you are planning a 72 hours [3 days] wood-firing, you have to do it, either without sleep all the way or with some help (i.e. someone or something). To get good Woodfired effects, you may need to stoke firewood from around 900 ~ 1000 c° to finishing temperature. Generally speaking, you don’t need to burn wood before 1000 c° as flying wood ash doesn’t settle and melt on pots. But that doesn’t mean aesthetic quality of finished vessels is the same. This could make a huge difference by what kind of fuel you are using.

Bottled gas is handy and easy to use. But my concern is when gas is low and running out, all the problems atart and end up with a total disater. Oil Burner is pretty reliable and many potters have successful firing. You can combine an oil burner [Japanese Rotary Oil burner] and wood. This way you may be able to do your firing alone.

If you like wood-firing, then try it only wood with helpers you can trust. You would like to do it all by yourself, so would I. But my firing takes 10 days and I need hrlpers (Gas)

Brave (or crazy) enough, Lise had her solitary anagama firing in a bit of snow a few days ago. I felt sorry she only had less firewood than she wanted to keep it going. She must have learnt a good lesson from this experience. I am looking forward to hearing from her soon about opening of her kiln. (Gas)

Experience is the name we give to our mistakes.

Lise had to finish her wood-firing rather earlier than she planned. It’s a pity that she didn’t prepare enough amount of wood. It is always a good idea to have an amount of firewood for 2 firinigs just in case.

I do hope that Lise is brave and stubborn enough to carry on her solitary wood-firings. Her idea of 72 hours of solitary firing can be perfected with a 3 basic parts of wood-firing (‘Aburi’ 炙り焚きwarming-up. ‘Seme’ 攻め焚き attacking and ‘Nerashi’ 煉らし焚き maturing) in the near future.
You have to keep on doing it for your quest, Lise!! (Gas)

About Gas

Hi, I am a wood-fire potter, living and working in the Japanese tradition in Tring, Hertfordshire (UK). Following mediaeval potter's wisdom, I design and build simple wood-fired kilns called 'anagama' for long period of firing and 'raku-gama' for quick (glazed tea bowl) firing. My anagama firing usually takes 9 - 10 days.
This entry was posted in anagamania, kiln-building (kamatsuki), wood-firing (kamataki) and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to ‘Anagamania’ -16- 穴窯独り焚き Anagama Firing in Solitude

  1. ställer says:

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on websites
    I stumbleupon everyday. It’s always interesting to read articles from other writers and practice something from their sites.

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