Piedmont College’s Demorest Campus was bustling this past month despite classes being over for the summer. Students, both current and former, as well as visiting artists and locals were all congregating for a chance to participate in the much-anticipated firing of Piedmont’s Anagama kiln.This kiln is located just a short distance from the main hub of campus, though you likely wouldn’t notice it when its not in use.
The kiln was built by art department head and 3D/Ceramics instructor Chris Kelly and his own former teacher Fujita Juroemone the 9th about 8 years ago. Structurally it is a 20 foot long tunnel in the ground, but the interesting thing about this type of kiln is not only the intensive process but the fact that the ceramics are usually placed into the kiln without being glazed. Traditionally clay art would be coated with a glaze that, once exposed to the heat, creates various colors textures and finishes on the pottery.The Anagama kiln is special because the ash from the wood used during the firing produces ash that lands on the pieces and super heats to create its own glaze. The kiln is fired 24/7 for 3-5 days. Someone must be present at all times to keep feeding wood to the kiln, which uses about 6 cords of wood in total. Those who come to have their work fired in the kiln often compensate for the honor by volunteering for shifts watching the kiln. When volunteers are not feeding wood to the kiln they sit around and chat or roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the heat emanating from the kiln.
The Anagama needs several days to cool off before it can be opened and the pieces removed. Opening day is the long-awaited main event. Since artists have very little control over the finish of the final project every piece is somewhat of a surprise. Every firing is different and the finishes vary from shiny and glass like to textured and coarse like granite. The beauty of the kiln is in the collaboration between the artists and the kiln itself.The glaze produced is often an array of earthy browns with organic drips and patterns that could not be replicated any other way. The element of chance involved in the process is a thing of beauty.
Piedmont College, both at its Demorest and Athens campuses, has alot to offer in the arts, and the Anagama kiln is a crowning jewel for the art department and the college.The kiln is expected to be fired again in November and the magic can start all over again.