穴釜&陶芸 (Anagama and Tougei)

It’s another busy weekend! I got invited to go do something involving ceramics (tougei) today, December 1st.

I’m not sure what kinds of expectations I had going into this, but today certainly exceeded them. For one thing, when we were making the long (1-2 hour? I don’t know) drive up to northern Hiroshima, it snowed!! On the first day of December!! ^_______^ Merry Christmas to all…

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The windows were fogging up because it was so freezing cold outside, but I still tried to get a picture of the snow starting to cover the ground.

I have to admit that I didn’t know exactly what we were going to do, because I’d had it explained to me a couple times and usually when it comes to ceramics there’s just too many words that I don’t understand…and I didn’t want to stop the conversation every time I didn’t get something (which was often)…so basically what I knew is that a) I was going on a trip to do something involving ceramics (with the same sensei as before) b) it was going to be in northern Hiroshima (Prefecture) and it was going to be really cold, and c) it was going to involve some special type of firing. And I knew when to be at the post office to be picked up in the morning.

We drove up a hill, where there’s a cabin (on the left) that I found out is used for business meetings/worker trainings for employees of a truck manufacturing company.

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A little further up the hill was the shed/workshop where there was a kiln holding a lot of works that had been put in there previously (I forget how long ago). It was an “open-air” workshop, in that the roof and supports were wooden but that blue tarp you see is the wall. I didn’t bring the right shoes to prepare for this and my feet were pretty cold^^;

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The blue boxes on the right were for putting in the completed ceramics. But first, we had to get them out of the kiln (called “anagama”). Thus begins the excavation…

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We put a light near the entrance of the kiln, and after wrote numbers on all the bricks so they could be replaced later. It felt like digging for dinosaur bones, because you have to chip away at the hardened clay around the bricks with a chisel. (I didn’t actually do any of this.)
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Then the task of removing each brick one by one…
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This really felt like Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark or something, haha. Using the light, we broke through the wall and found lots of artifacts! Fun fact: Indiana Jones is called “Indie Jones” in Japan.
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The ceramics pieces sometimes melded to the metal squares they sat on top of (there are 3 squares per row, if you can see that in the picture), so while some pieces came off easily, others had to be chipped off. I got to go in and do this too! It’s actually pretty nice in the kiln because it’s got walls so it’s warmer inside.
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The unloading. The inside is big enough for one or two people, so different people would go in, chip stuff out, and set it at the entrance.

My excuse for being here was that the dish and chopstick holders that I made this summer had been fired here, and so of course, I got to collect my own work from the treasure cave kiln, too!

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You can see more of the kiln in the background. M-sensei told me that this kind of kiln was brought over to Japan from China, and that it started out being dug into the sides of caves but this new type behind me was developed later.

This has been a picture tour of the official purpose of this visit, visiting the kiln and retrieving our fired goods. However, there were several other unforeseen things to come out of this trip^^ See the next post if you’re curious.

Song of the Day: Matsushita Yuya, “Foolish Foolish (Remix),” English Ver.

3 thoughts on “穴釜&陶芸 (Anagama and Tougei)

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