An unusual tradition is taking place at Shorter University right now which has its roots in ancient Japan.
A few faculty members and students will be firing their pottery in a very special kiln.
Micah Cain, Assistant Professor of Art at Shorter said for the past seven years, they’ve fired up the kiln — an Anagama kiln — every year and it’s a pretty interesting process.
An Anagama kiln is an ancient type of pottery kiln that consists of a firing chamber with a firebox at one end and a flue at the other. Cain, studied in Shigaraki, Japan during a study abroad semester while a student at Shorter in 2003. It was his time in Japan that inspired him to return and propose the construction of an anagama kiln on the Shorter campus. In 2004, he and fellow student Ian Childers built the Anagama, which has been fired annually ever since.
“As part of a study abroad, we visited a number of different kiln sites,” Cain said. “The anagama is unique mainly due to the type of work that it produces. The unique thing about most any wood firing kilns, and specifically the anagama, is that as we stoke and the fire consumes the wood, the ash accumulates on the pots. The air pulls the ash through the kiln and the ash itself turns into a glaze.”
Cain said the kiln was preheated on Thursday and they started firing on Friday for about four days. It was completely filled with pots and bricked up except for a small window into which they add wood at regular intervals.
On Nov. 10, Cain and others will unbrick the kiln and unload the pots. The community is welcome to visit the firing site near the ceramics studio at Shorter University to see the unloading of the kiln and view the finished pots.
This year’s participants whose pots were being fired in the kiln include Cain and his ceramics students; Parker Hunt, Artist in Residence at the Walnut Gallery and Continuing Education Instructor at Gadsden State Community College; John Oles, Assistant Professor of Ceramics at Jacksonville State University; Micah Cain and his ceramics students and sculptor Julia Knight.
“It’s a cool process,” Cain said. “The design of the kiln has changed very little from its ancient origins. Today we use bricks whereas it used to be dug out of a hillside but the current design is very similar to what it used to be.”