John Baymore at River Bend Pottery

River Bend Pottery   © 1995 - 2011 All Rights reserved




As the exact proportions of these anagama evolved through repeated firings and experimentation on the part of the potters, they eventually were able to achieve rather high temperatures.  This was typically achieved through excessively long duration firings and the consumption of huge amounts of wood fuel. These early single chamber kilns fired very unevenly, and many pots either had to be refired becasue they were too cold, or were ruined because they got too hot. The firings were often a communal project involving whole villages. A firing was a major undertaking, and was costly in terms of human resources, firewood, and in badly fired pots.


The Anagama Improves


In seeking to make more and better pots, and therefore have better lives for themselves, potters experimented with how to improve the firings of their anagama kilns. For most of them, a potter's life teetered on the edge of hand-to-mouth survival, and any economic competitive edge was welcomed.


They found that if they created temporary segments within the single large chamber by piling up solid walls of saggars (early kiln furniture) and allowing small flues between them for the passage of the flames, they could even out the temperature in the chamber somewhat. They then also made small openings from the outside ground level through which they could drop firewood into each of these segmented areas.


It was a small technical step from this discovery to the construction of permanent segments within the anagama-type structure with permanent stoke holes along the sides of the chamber. Clay pillars were placed inside to create numerous distinct chambers with flues leading out of one and into the next..


Once these primitive kilns had been fired, a "skin" of fired hard clay formed on the inside surface making the kiln structures somewhat permanent. Each firing made it more durable.  As you might imagine, building such a kiln in the first place in the soft clay was a hazardous occupation, with collapse of the soft ground always a possibility!