Atmospheric Ceramics Kiln Firing… A Unique Collaboration

Students from last fall’s Atmospheric Firing class have been hard at work feeding a continuous supply of wood to the anagama woodfire kiln at the University of Kansas. Now in its 13th year, the process is a partnership between the Lawrence Arts Center and KU’s Woodfire Ceramics class. KU students will work alongside Arts Center ceramists to finish projects begun in 2020.

KU’s 23-foot, brick anagama kiln comes from Japan and was brought to west campus in 1999. It has a large chamber at the front, and steps inside the kiln. Loading the kiln, which affects the firing process based on how pieces are positioned within, took nearly two and a half days. The firing process will take an additional four, and requires 24-hour monitoring to feed the fire and slowly bring the kiln temperature to more than 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Every aspect of this firing process involves many hands working together to make it happen: from splitting multiple cords of wood and loading the kiln, to stoking the wood around the clock, unloading the fired works, and cleaning up. As the KU and Arts Center students work side by side, they learn from each other and bond through a shared passion for clay. This is a cool way to fire ceramics and also a great way to forge meaningful connections. Take a peek behind the scenes with these photos!