ANAGAMA Matcha Bowls
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.
ANAGAMA ceramic itself has various contradictions and its own uniqueness. The combination between the artisan's intent deriving from his technique and the mysterious coincidences which occur during the firing process create the beauty of the Matcha bowl. The difference between rough clay and smooth glazed texture are well combined into one ceramic. Focusing on the natural glaze, coming only from wood ash, a variety of colors in gray, aubergine, brown, BEEDORO green, and their gradations are mutually blended. Burst feldspars caused by roaring flame, decoration created by sea shells, and natural deformations which occur during the firing process are unique beyond comparison. Those factors are all combined in one work, and breathe new life into the Matcha bowl. The longer we gaze at ANAGAMA ceramic carefully, the more we will see and find something new.
Bright and rough natural glazes in gray, aubergine, brown, and BEEDORO green are made from only wood ash during firing in the kiln. All are well marbled into one bowl and create a complicated, indescribable aura.
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 2016, the artisan Mr. Hozan Tanii produced some very beautiful and unique pieces of ANAGAMA pottery. The kiln firing continued from August 27 to 30. 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
Glaze flow and color, and HIIRO fire color are different in each pottery.
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.
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.
Fireproof stones are used not only to hold the bowl in place during firing, but to add patterns to the work or to adjust the burnt color.
Shells used for adding patterns or adjusting the burned color. To add patterns, works are placed on the shells.
Potteries are placed in the kiln.
All the potteries are set. All of them are arranged based on his vision.
When all the potteries are arranged in the kiln, the mouth is closed by clay and bricks.
Firing the Kiln
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.
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.
Firing the kiln has just started.
Gray smoke emerging from the chimney
Putting woods on a fire
In order to create the intended color and pattern, the artisan adjusts the conditions inside the ANAGAMA kiln, using an iron rod.
The kiln mouth is closed with an iron plate.
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.
One of the potteries was took out from the kiln in order to create glossy glaze texture.
The temperature of the pottery decreased and turned to ashy blue color, but it is still hot.
He has very earnest eyes for his dearest potteries.
Some of Tanii’s friends and family members come to see him not only for some help but also for some chat.
A pillar of fire bursts forth from the chimney in the silent night. The scene is dramatic.
Unloading ANAGAMA Pottery from the Kiln
The process of unloading the kiln is one of the most important tasks in the creation of ANAGAMA pottery. This process, along with the temperature in the kiln and the cooling time, profoundly impacts the glaze color and its texture. When the kiln is cooled down by opening the chimney to circulate the air, the temperature in the kiln decreases, and a glassy texture of pottery is created. In contrast, when the temperature of the kiln is decreased only by the outdoor temperature, it takes more time to cool, and a muddy texture is created.
In general, ceramics fired in the kiln should be cooled for the same amount of time in which they were fired. Mr. Hozan Tanii's kiln in September 2016 was cooled down for 100 hours. Even though the kiln is cooled down for more than 4 days, the air in the kiln, the bricks, and the surface of the earth are still hot. Inside the kiln is very hot, like a sauna. Of course, each piece of pottery is also warm, and the artisan wears long sleeves, long pants, and work gloves even in the hot summer season. Everyone is soaked with sweat.
When the artisan is finished placing wood on the fire during the firing process, the kiln mouth is covered with mud in order not to lose the temperature, and only the chimney is opened. The kiln mouth is later broken down with great care.
Before the firing process, Mr. Hozan Tanii carefully places each piece of ANAGAMA pottery, based on its clay texture and size in order, so that all are created according to his vision. When the mouth of the kiln is opened, he evaluates and checks if all items are created as he imagined. His repetition of trial and error over many years has allowed him to produce his own unique natural glaze flow and texture.
When the kiln is unloaded, a blanket is spread over the ground in order to avoid breakage. A blanket is also useful to avoid the heat from the ground near the kiln. The room in the kiln is very small and its width is about 27.5 inches (70cm), so the artisan Mr. Hozan Tanii needs to curl up his body, to remove the pottery from the kiln. It is very hard work.
Before opening the kiln mouth, he feels great anticipation, sometimes worry and sometimes joy. He has said that this feeling is similar to the moment that a new baby is born into the world, a historic moment. He eagerly waits for the new baby to be born, yet feels great concern for whether the new baby will be born safe and healthy. When each piece of ANAGAMA pottery comes out from the kiln without breakage and all items are in perfect condition, he is full of gratitude and relief.
He sometimes feels that the ANAGAMA kiln is not unlike the birth canal, bringing new life into the world. This process is not only to experience, study and improve the ANAGAMA kiln, but also to encounter new life.
Piled up ashes are put into ash bag.
When the mouth of the kiln is opened, he evaluates and checks if all items are created as he imagined.
The room in the kiln is very small, so the artisan Mr. Hozan Tanii needs to curl up his body, to remove the pottery from the kiln.
When the kiln is unloaded, a blanket is spread over the ground in order to avoid breakage. A blanket is also useful to avoid the heat from the ground near the kiln.
When each piece of ANAGAMA pottery comes out from the kiln without breakage and all items are in perfect condition, artisan Hozan Tanii is full of gratitude and relief.
Each piece is handled with great care, like holding a child tenderly.
Back side of ANAGAMA kiln. Potteries of HIIRO firing color is created in this area.
Each piece has different and unique color pattern.
Various types of pottery are fired in long ANAGAMA kiln at one time.
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 (One-of-a-kind piece / Now Available)
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 (Sold / Not 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...
[ANAGAMA] AMA no KAWA (by Hozan Tanii) US$3,700.00 (Sold / Not Available)
On the face of this Chawan, a small mountain rises along the top rim, creating a beautiful silhouette. AMA no KAWA means the Milky Way galaxy in Japanese. Burst feldspars on the interior create a feeling of viewing a distant galaxy on a silent night...