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The Anagama Tradition

Anagama kiln is an ancient Japanese kiln that has been in use since the 5th century. The word “Anagama” translates to “cave kiln”, as the process of firing pottery in an Anagama kiln involves digging a hole in the ground and constructing a tunnel-like structure through which the fire will travel.


The Art of Joy Brown, a documentary by Eduardo Montes-Bradley
Montes-Bradley filming inside Brown’s Anagama kiln.

The Anagama kiln is believed to have originated in Korea, where it was brought to Japan by Korean potters. The Anagama kiln is a wood-fired kiln that is fired continuously for several days, reaching temperatures of up to 1300°C.


The firing process in an Anagama kiln is an intense and time-consuming process. It typically involves the use of large amounts of wood, which is needed to keep the temperature of the kiln high enough to achieve the desired results. The firing takes several days, with the potters adding wood to the kiln on a regular basis. Throughout the firing process, the potters must carefully monitor the temperature of the kiln, making adjustments as needed to ensure that the temperature stays within the desired range.

The results of firing pottery in an Anagama kiln are unique and varied. The heat and wood ash create natural patterns on the surface of the pottery, giving each piece a one-of-a-kind character. The colors and textures of the pottery that emerge from the kiln are unpredictable and often surprising, making each piece a unique work of art.


From the documentary film The Art of Joy Brown by Eduardo Montes-Bradley
Rear end of Joy Brown’s Anagama kiln

Despite its long history and cultural significance, the use of Anagama kilns has begun to decline in recent years. This is due in part to the difficulty and expense of the firing process, as well as the need for large amounts of wood. Additionally, modern technology has made it possible to achieve similar results to firing in an Anagama kiln using gas or electric kilns, which are less time-consuming and easier to control.

Despite these challenges, there are still potters who are dedicated to using Anagama kilns, recognizing the unique and irreplicable results that firing pottery in this way can produce. The Anagama kiln remains an important part of Japanese culture and history, and the dedication of potters to keeping this ancient tradition alive ensures its continued relevance in the modern world.

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