ANAGAMA PotteryANAGAMA Pottery

What is ANAGAMA Pottery?

ANAGAMA is an ancestor of the climbing kiln, a traditional style of kiln built on an upward incline. One can say that actually ANAGAMA is an ancestor of all kiln in Japan. ANAGAMA pottery was first produced in the middle ages in Japan. And it was developed mainly in the Shigaraki region because Shigaraki not only produced large amounts of good clay for pottery but also was located near the Capital of Kyoto. ANAGAMA pottery is characterized by natural fiery scarlet Beedoro glaze of firewood ash origin. Matcha Chawan (Tea Bowl) burned in ANAGAMA kiln had been loved by successive tea masters. Today it is known as the traditional art of the combination of earth and fire.

The color and pattern of each ANAGAMA ceramic is completely unique. There is never one ANAGAMA the same as any other. The smoky patterns of the ANAGAMA are created by the fire in the ANAGAMA kiln. It is impossible to fully control the patterns made by fire. It is the reason why it is said that ANAGAMA pottery is the art of the combination of earth and fire, and why ANAGAMA fascinates the artisan and touches the heart.

Needless to say, this ceramic style requires extensive expertise, knowledge, and efforts to produce excellent ANAGAMA works. They are beyond comparison with ordinary pottery.
ANAGAMA pottery is usually fired continuously for 4 days (96 hours) or more, during which about 400 batches of firewood (each batch has about 20 logs of firewood) is burned continuously without break. Only considering the cost of firewood, it is certainly not an inexpensive process.
As above, each ANAGAMA ceramic is one and only and there are never two alike. Because of this, and the fact that it is quite expensive to create, ANAGAMA pottery is not able to be produced for mass commercial distribution. In addition, not all artisans can sell works of ANAGAMA. And successful artisan's works sell quickly. Only a small limited number of artisans are able to produce ANAGAMA pottery in Japan, and therefore ANAGAMA pottery is hardly found on the market. Even in Japan, it is quite rare.

In late autumn of 2010, the artisan Mr. Hozan Tanii produced some very beautiful and unique pieces of ANAGAMA pottery. The kiln firing continued from noon of November 27th to the morning of the 31st. We, at Hibiki-an, are planning to begin selling some of his ANAGAMA Matcha Chawan (tea bowls) in some weeks. We will inform you of the details as they become available. Please check our website and newsletter for the latest information.

Matcha Chawan and other pottery before firing in the kiln

Inside the ANAGAMA kiln

Adjusting the condition inside ANAGAMA kiln, using an iron rod

At the last stage when the temperature in the kiln is at its peak, a pillar of fire bursts forth from the chimney

Mr. Tanii's ANAGAMA kiln, which is designed most traditionally and requires delicate and enormous efforts

One example of ANAGAMA pottery, a large vessel. This item is one of the artisan's finest ANAGAMA works along with Matcha Chawan. The large crock in this picture sold at a very high price just 3 days after being taken out from the kiln.

Kiln Preparation

Firewood:
ANAGAMA pottery is usually fired continuously for 4 days (96 hours) or more, using approximately 400 batches of firewood. Each batch has around 20 logs of firewood made from acicular trees like Japanese red pine, oak, and beech. Ash from burnt pine, oak, and beech wood makes a good natural glaze, however all bark must be removed because ash from bark does not create good glaze. It is not a simple task to prepare firewood for the kiln.

Placement of Works inside the Kiln:
One of the most important steps before firing the kiln, is the arrangement or placement of the pottery inside the kiln. This is a trade secret of each artisan. The color and pattern of each ANAGAMA ceramic is created by fire in the ANAGAMA kiln and completely depends on where it is placed in relation to the flames. Each work should be carefully placed, considering the path and direction of the fire in the kiln. The artisan positions the ceramics in the kiln, using his knowledge of how the flame will affect the color and pattern, and depending on how he wants the work to evolve.

Placement also affects the shape of each work. For example, if a Matcha Bowl is set up sideways in the kiln, it naturally flattens when it is fired and the top face becomes a natural oval. When the Matcha Bowl is placed sideways in the kiln, the fire makes contact with the inside of the Matcha Bowl. So, the scene inside of the Matcha Bowl becomes quite unique and excellent.

Shells are often used to add patterns on the works or adjust the burnt color. Works are often put on shells like the below picture in order to add the pattern of the shell. And shells are also put nearby to create a special color. Shell is calcareous, containing high levels of calcium carbonate, so that it reacts to fire and creates beautiful and intense color. Clam, abalone, and scallop are used as the situation demands.

As above, placement of each piece of pottery is one of the most important steps before firing the kiln. During placement, artisans carefully consider the color and pattern of the finished works. It is not unusual for the artisan to change and rearrange the position of the works several times before firing the kiln.

Batches of firewood. This is just part of the 400 batches of firewood which are burned for 4 days (96 hours) or more continuously without break.

Shells used for adding patterns or adjusting the burned color.

To add patterns, works are placed on the shells.

Mr. Tanii's kiln is designed with a steep incline and low ceiling so that fire travels easily inside the kiln, however, this makes it difficult to place works inside the kiln.

Large vessels and tall vases are placed in the kiln.


Firing the Kiln

Firing:
ANAGAMA pottery is usually fired for 4 days (96 hours) or more continuously without break. Firewood is carefully placed in the kiln every 5 to 10 minutes. The burning temperature starts at 2,190F (1,200C) and peaks at 2,370F (1,300C) on the third or fourth day.

The artisan is able to precisely gauge and adjust the temperature in the kiln by watching the color of the smoke and changing the way of closing the mouth of the kiln and lid of the chimney. He can gauge the temperature in the kiln by the kinds of smoke coming out from the chimney. When black smoke emerges, the temperature is relatively low. Gray smoke means the temperature is in the middle range, while transparent smoke means the kiln is very hot.

The kiln can be closed using bricks, firewood, and an iron lid. If the iron lid is used, very little air can enter the kiln and the temperature does not rise. If bricks or firewood are used, air can easily enter the kiln, and the amount of air also can be precisely controlled.

It seems that in Japan, artisans pay special attention to precisely adjusting the temperature in the kiln. In Korea, traditionally, the kiln is not closed. In China, the whole batch of firewood is thrown into the kiln at once. The temperature is not carefully adjusted throughout the entire firing process. This is one reason why artisans in Japan can have more precise control over the final appearance of their ceramics, and are able to create the finished piece as intended.

In order to create the intended color and pattern, the artisan adjusts the conditions inside the ANAGAMA kiln, using an iron rod. It is not an easy task to change the position of works, using an iron rod through the small mouth of the kiln, which is only 11.8in x 11.8in (30cm x 30cm).

At the last stage, on the third or fourth day, when the temperature in the kiln peaks at 2,370F (1,300C), a pillar of fire bursts forth from the chimney with an amazing sound. The scene is awesome and dramatic.

ANAGAMA Kiln:
Mr. Hozan Tanii built his own ANAGAMA kiln in the traditional style with a steep incline and low ceiling. Fire can quickly and fully race around inside his ANAGAMA kiln, because of the strong air flow that can more easily enter the kiln by the steep incline and low ceiling. So, the unique and excellent color and pattern can be created. However, his style of ANAGAMA kiln requires highly skilled precision and enormous effort. Adjusting the temperature in the kiln is especially difficult. If the artisan loses his concentration even for a moment during the kiln firing, all of his works would be ruined.

Black smoke emerging from the chimney

Gray smoke emerging from the chimney

Carefully placing each piece of firewood into the kiln

Half of the kiln mouth is closed with firewood

The kiln mouth is closed with six bricks

A thermometer is used to confirm the temperature

Fire is quickly racing around inside the kiln. The scene is very dynamic and completely captivating to anyone who sees it firsthand.

Adjusting the conditions inside ANAGAMA kiln, using an iron rod.

A pillar of fire bursts forth from the chimney in the silent night. The scene is dramatic.

Finishing

The main process during finishing is polishing, which requires not only utmost attention but also patience and much time. The surface of recently fired works is very coarse, created by burst saltpeter and the rough texture of the clay. In order to smooth out the surface, the works must be carefully polished. However, if polished too much, the atmosphere is spoiled. If polished too little, the surface remains overly rough.

At first, the artisan very carefully polishes using a grindstone. In this phase, one must be extremely cautious to avoid removing too much burst saltpeter, otherwise it ruins the work.

Next, the unique finish of the piece is created in several stages, using rough sandpaper at first and gradually transitioning to finer, more delicate papers and techniques. In this way, the surface of each piece evolves uniquely over time. The end result shows that the artisan has transferred his heart and soul into the work.

Above, we have described the main finishing process by the artisan. But the final and supreme finishing is completed over many years by the person who eventually takes the work into their home. The atmosphere of the appearance of ANAGAMA pottery deepens over time with use. It is not uncommon that the fine ANAGAMA pottery like the works of Mr. Hozan Tanii is a partner throughout the life of the individual who takes the work into their home. They grow and evolve together over time. Mr. Tanii says that truly he feels like his child is leaving home and getting married when his ANAGAMA pottery is sold.

The polishing process requires utmost attention, patience, and much time. It is one reason why very few artisans are able to produce ANAGAMA pottery.

A grindstone is used first to polish the ceramic. It has a very rough texture.

The artisan must be extremely careful when using the grindstone.

The artisan transitions from rough to fine sandpaper.

The surface becomes more smooth and fine.

ANAGAMA pottery is a partner for life to the individual who takes the work into their home. Like a marriage, they grow and evolve together over time.

ANAGAMA Matcha Bowls

We have begun to sell very special Matcha Bowls fired in the most traditional kiln, ANAGAMA by the ceramic artist Mr. Hozan Tanii.
ANAGAMA is an ancestor of the climbing kiln, a traditional style of kiln built on an upward incline. There is never one ANAGAMA the same as any other. Each work is one of a kind.(So, once sold, it will be out of stock.) ANAGAMA pottery is the art of the combination of earth and fire. It fascinates the artisan and touches the heart. Last autumn, Mr. Tanii produced some very beautiful and unique pieces of ANAGAMA pottery. The kiln firing continued from August 27th to 30th.
We, at Hibiki-an, are fortunate to be able to offer some of his ANAGAMA pottery. Please take a look. You are sure to fall in love.
[ANAGAMA] SOHSHUN FU (by Hozan Tanii) US$5,480.00 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
SOHSHUN means early spring, and FU in this sense means timeline in Japanese. This bowl expresses the beginning of the spring, and its scenery. BEEDORO ashy green glaze on the front exterior dynamically flows left obliquely upward with color gradation...
[ANAGAMA] IN BLUE (by Hozan Tanii) US$5,480.00 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
The name of “IN BLUE” is the phrase which suddenly ran through Mr. Hozan Tanii’s mind when he opened the kiln and saw this bowl for the first time. Various, unique, and mysterious natural blue glaze coats inside and outside the bowl, and every angle presents a different expression...
[ANAGAMA] KATARAI (by Hozan Tanii) US$3,380.00 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
KATARAI of this bowl’s name means deep conversation in Japanese. As its name implies, it seems that two people have some communication on this bowl. The shapes and colors are created by accident during the firing process, but each shape appears to be a face. Both faces are turned toward one another, and are deep in conversation...
[ANAGAMA] YUKI SHIGURE (by Hozan Tanii) US$3,380.00 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
YUKI means snow, and SHIGURE means rain shower in late autumn in Japanese. This bowl expresses the seasonal transition from autumn to winter. White natural glaze coating the bowl also evokes the image that winter is coming. The natural glaze colors of dark yellow gold and white evoke the complex atmosphere between the autumn and winter seasons...
[ANAGAMA] NAGOMI (by Hozan Tanii) US$2,620.00 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
NAGOMI of this name means peaceful mind and heart, a soothing feeling, in Japanese. Three glaze colors which are yellow gold, gray and BEEDORO green, vertically flow from the front top to the bottom exterior. Those flows are naturally created by chance, but its flow beautifully colors the Matcha bowl as though it is the intention of the artist, Mr. Hozan Tanii...
[ANAGAMA] AKI no UTAGE (by Hozan Tanii) US$2,620.00 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
AKI means autumn, and UTAGE means celebration in Japanese. This bowl expresses the idea that nature itself celebrates and enjoys the abundant harvest in autumn. The natural glaze colors of dark yellow gold coating inside and outside the front exterior expresses the image of autumn’s glory, and also represents the joy that all the plants are mature enough to have rich crops...