Ancient Japanese pottery
An ancient Japanese-style kiln has become the mainstay of the pottery craft for Hawke’s Bay potters Bruce and Estelle Martin.
The husband and wife team from Bridge Pa spent more than 2½ years building the brick and clay kiln called an anagama which means “hole kiln.”
Originally the kilns were built under ground in a clay bank but only half of the Martin’s kiln is set in the ground.
About 5000 bricks were used and these were covered in about 15cm to 20cm of clay.
The kiln is wood-fuelled and about 10 days ago the Martin’s fired it up for the second time.
“Between 1200 and 1500 pots were carefully stacked into the kiln before it was closed and we started firing,” said Mr Martin.
The kiln is a time-consuming business.
Not only did it take nearly five months to make the pots, but it also took nine days to stack them into the kiln.
Then shifts worked around the clock for 10 days feeding the fire and keeping the temperature of the kiln up to about 1300 degrees Celsius.
With the help of Japanese potter Sanyo Fujii who has been working with the Martins, the kiln was kept going until Thursday.
“We then have to wait up to 10 more days until the kiln has cooled and we can open it to remove the pots,” said Mr Martin.
The pots go into the kiln unglazed and the process puts the glaze on.
“All the glazes and colours are produced by the fire, gas and ash and come out completely natural,” he said.
The Martins’ interest in the anagama kiln began about four years ago when they visited Mr Fujii in Japan.
“We have always admired the pots produced during the age when this type of kiln was commonly used in Japan.” he said.
One of the potential problems of the kiln is the blacksmoke which is emmittd [emitted] from the chimney.
“We haven’t had any complaints about the smoke and the kiln is far enough away from neighbours not to be problem.”
Photo caption – Mr Sanyo Fujii, who has been helping Bridge Pa potters Bruce and Estelle Martin with the firing up of their anagama kiln.