EXHIBITION: ASH, EMBER, FLAME - a Japanese kiln in Oxford

a Japanese kiln in Oxford 

Ash Ember Flame: a Japanese Kiln at Oxford ran at the Embassy of Japan between 10 December 2021 and 17 March 2022.

Ash Ember Flame, a Japanese Kiln in Oxford was an exhibition that followed an extensive educational and creative project to increase accessibility to and knowledge of firing kilns of a Japanese anagama design. An anagama kiln (lit. cave kiln) is a wood fired pottery kiln in which the firebox, which contains the fuel, is not separated from the loading chamber, where the pots are stacked. This shared spaced results in unique decorative effects on the pots loaded in the kiln, which occur by the interplay of ash, ember and flame over the course of the firing period, during which the kiln is stoked by a firing team 24 hours a day for at least three consecutive days.

This online archive of the exhibition has made available the text from the exhibition, and a collection of videos surrounding the project, including interviews with potters in Japan, artists involved in the exhibition, and Dr Robin Wilson who directs the Oxford University Kilns project.

In October and November 2021, a team of potters, community groups and students came together for two special firings of the Oxford University Kilns' smallest anagama. Most had never fired a wood kiln before, let alone an anagama, which are technically challenging to fire. In a broad educational and social firing, the techniques of firing the kiln were taught and learnt, and through collaborative effort the pots that had been made specifically for the exhibition were fired. Included in the firing were pots from famous studio potters based in the UK and beyond, community groups, school children, and up and coming ceramicists in an egalitarian firing aimed at exposing a large group of people to the art of making pottery in a Japanese anagama. The unique conditions of the project, combined with the esoteric nature of anagama kilns, has culminated in the production of work that is as exciting to look at as it is significant, where serendipity and intention have produced works of art that are unrepeatable and beautiful.

Discover these fascinating kilns, and the project itself, through remarkable objects that have been decorated by the interplay between ash, ember and flame in a Japanese anagama kiln. The accompanying downloadable exhibition guide, which can be obtained from this webpage, helps introduce the conceptual toolkit that helps to understand the complex interplay between these decorative factors.

The firing took place in collaboration with the Oxford University Kilns, and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) as part of the Humanities Cultural Programme Japan Season. The Embassy of Japan would like to thank the large number of volunteers who gave up their time to take part in the firing of the kilns, and to all of the ceramic artists and educators who ran outreach programmes as part of the project.