The Waterman Chronicles - a gallery of works by New Zealand artist, potter and poet John Waterman
gallery of works by john waterman :: new zealand artist, potter, poet



A traditional Japanese wood-fired climbing kiln

This is one of the kilns I built and used for a number of years; modelled on a traditional 3-chamber wood-fired Japanese climbing kiln.

NZ Pottery & Clay - Japanese wood-fired climbing kiln

Constructed from a huge number of high and low temperature firebricks, this monster had a firebox at the front of the lowest level (not shown) called a 'Burré Box' which is itself the size of a small kiln. This is where one-metre lengths of dry pine were fed with increasing frequency as the temperature rose to 1300ºC.

Firing cycles would last anywhere from 24 to 48 hours from start to finish. Each chamber had a capacity of about 80 cu.ft ; a size probably more suitable as a village kiln fed with the work of a number of potters. The long firings were hot, hard work - very elemental, very challenging and producing stunning results when all went well.

These climbing kilns evolved in ancient Chinese and Japanese pottery villages and were fired by kiln masters who posessed an intimate and intuitive knowledge of fire and the firing process, and who travelled from village to village completing this final part of the pottery cycle.

Climbing kilns, and all wood-fired kilns, can transfer something almost magical to the pot and glaze, transforming them in ways that can leave potters gasping in wonder and delight - or, when things don't go well, plunging them into the abyss of despair.

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