EARTH & FIRE
Updated: Nov 25, 2022
Notes from the Editing Room - It might not always be the case, but it so happens that often takes a village to fire a kiln, and when it comes to Joy Brown’s anagama dragon, the effort takes epic proportions. From start to finish, her process takes about a month.
Witnessing the sequence of unfolding events is like watching a carefully choreographed dance that begins with loading clay pieces inside the kiln followed by the sealing of the tunnel, and lighting of the initial fire right in front of the front opening of the kiln. This initial fire is meant to warm and dry the atmosphere inside the kiln. This slow process is constantly supervised by the artist, who is permanently measuring the temperature inside the chamber. On her instructions, the fire will be moved inside and to the front of the kiln where considerable space as been allowed to host the fir that will be continuously fed through a small opening regulated by a closing iron gate which is elevated to allow for the team to feed the previously chopped wood, mostly from dead trees in surrounding forests. During the following week, the artist will constantly compare the temperature in both extremes of the kiln hoping to maintain a balance between both extremes. For this purpose, Joy. The last day calls for a celebration of sorts. Everyone gathers around to share their experiences and the front wall of the dragon is taken down to allow for a slow cooling of the harvest.
It is an ancient tradition that evolved unrelatedly in distant parts of the globThethe anagama kiln has its roots in China, Korea, and Japan, but that refers just to a particular type of kiln, a process, and a technique. Similar pottery in many other forms undistinguishable to the naked eye has been found in multiple locations, from the dusty plains of Santiago del Estero in Argentina to the Middle East, North Africa, Mesoamerica, and Mitteleuropa. Pottery is a common language in many civilizations. The anagama kiln produces heat of up to 1400’s degrees Celsius and favors fly ash and volatile particles of salt that stick to the surface of the pots or sculptures, providing the characteristic blend of earthlike browns and ash greys and blacks. The position of every piece inside the anagama kiln will distinctively affect the outcome. Each piece coming from such a dragon will have unique DNA. Perhaps, that is the distinctive notion that precedes the Industrial Revolution. Paradoxically, the wood-fire burning traditions in the United States are gaining traction in a time in which the industrial process is ceding way to Artificial Intelligence. There is nothing artificial about Joy Brown’s craft. Grounded in essential human ingenuity, it presents us with a down-to-earth approach to life.