Anagama kilns are a traditional single-chambered, wood-fired kiln constructed on a slope from clay or firebricks, and characteristic of the Japanese ceramics town of Bizen – the home of unglazed tea ceremony ware.
Project Outline: The purpose of this project is to build and fire two traditional Japanese kilns in the heart of Oxford University’s Wytham Woods, and to study the process of meaning-making in one form of contemporary ceramics practice as it plays out in the project.
Modern Anagama kilns represent the latest stage in an ongoing evolution, which has involved several reinventions, and which supplies the anthropological side of this project with rich study material illustrating the complex and changing relationships between the making process and the commodification and use of objects within a social and aesthetic context. As well as academic research, there is a strong component of research undertaken by the potters to understand and develop their own craft process.
At a time when the crafts are dominated by concept, seem impelled by commercial convenience to de-skill, to rely on increasingly complex machinery and on bland, processed materials, this project is a reminder that simple, sustainable processes and lightly refined, local materials can offer a valid and powerful alternative source of inspiration to the artist. As Bernard Leach discovered a hundred years ago, Japan was home to an unrivalled craft tradition, and it remains so despite changing lifestyles that threaten traditional markets and crafts practice. Rooted in practical research into both materials and process, OXFORD ANAGAMA offers an international forum which will encourage the search for a new way forward.
University of Oxford: The purpose behind locating this project in the University Woodland is to place it within a robust and unique research context, provided by The Wytham Studio and the Department of Anthropology, whose researchers will aim to help our understanding of what making ceramics means.
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