My kiln, named "Kawagama" (River Kiln), 川窯,was completed in 1981, taking two years
of part-time construction and available capital investment funds to complete. Full-time
apprentices Warren Smith and Martina Landry, both Massart BFA graduates, helped to
construct it. It has four stackable chambers with an additional stackable area located
in the main firebox, so technically this is a five chambered kiln.
The kiln sits about 50 feet from some babbling rapids on the Souhegan River. This
location, combined with the "river of fire" contained within, is the genesis of the
kiln's formal name.
It is constructed out of a combination of hard refractory firebrick of many grades,
insulating firebrick of many grades, and some backup of ceramic block insulation.
The round stoke hole linings for each chamber side stoke hole are hand-thrown. The
arches are all sprung catenary ones, sitting perched up on vertical walls. The organic
looking covering over the backup insulation in place over the arches is a mixture
of fireclay and sawdust rammed into place by hand.
This kiln was specifically designed to be a reasonable size for a one person studio
operation. Although large by most U.S. potters standards, compared to the large
climbing kilns in Japan, it is quite small. Enough pots can be made to fill it in
a reasonable amount of time for the necessary turnaround of work. It takes about
1500 - 1700 lbs. of wet clay to make enough pots to fill it...... about 500-600 various
This process is repeated up the kiln until the last chamber is completed. Each chamber
is typically a little hotter than the last when the changeover takes place. And
each successive chamber requires less wood to fire to completion. At that point,
the kiln is sealed from any draft flow, and the potter goes home for a much needed
rest while the kiln slowly cools.