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Loading the kiln with Bizen ware


When lighting a kiln to make Bizen ware, it is said that the place in which a work is placed determines the design of the pottery, which is because temperatures and ash scatter differ by location.


Bizen ware is called "The Art of Earth and Flames". This is because Bizen ware makes the most of the clay's natural color tones without using glaze. Glaze refers to the glass-like substance applied to the surface of ceramic wares.


Loading the kiln with Bizen ware
Since Bizen ware does not make use of glaze, it is randomly influenced, but this random influence can be predicted to an extent. There are different designs such as goma and hidasuki with Bizen ware, and the pottery is made with consideration of these designs.


For example, for goma designs, there are production methods and locations in which goma can be achieved easily. Placing the piece near the combustion chamber sprinkles a lot of ash from the logs onto the piece, creating a goma design. Similarly, when making a hidasuki design, following certain methods brings about the intended hidasuki design. Firing a piece wrapped with straw creates a hidasuki design.


Furthermore, there are methods for bringing out white colors in Bizen ware, methods to make it black, techniques to color it red, and more, which have all been cultivated from past experience.


Carrying out these kinds of calculations ultimately completes the Bizen ware. After all, no matter how random it is, art this beautiful cannot be created by haphazardly loading a kiln.


Therefore, Bizen ware is loaded into the kiln while consideration is given to things like how the fire will flow through the kiln, where the piece should be placed, and what to do about the temperature and type of firing. Within the kiln too, there are differences, such as places that have good exposure to fire and those that do not, and these differences have to be assessed.


Still, no matter how much forethought is given, the attraction of Bizen ware is that it never goes as planned. There are times when it undercuts expectations, and other times when something totally unexpected occurs. Since an unexpected flashy color may pop up at anytime, this is where the biggest charm lies.


There is also a variety of ways of placing pieces when loading the kiln — pieces may be stacked on top of each other, other pieces may be put inside of a pot... There are tons of variations. There are creative ways to bring out different colors by doctoring the pieces up like this.


Changes to Bizen ware across the ages
While the production process of Bizen ware has not changed over time, its appearance has. This is a result of changes in the sizes of kilns, innovations in evoking designs, and other factors.


In the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), goma was about the only change, if there were, indeed, any changes to speak of. Then, in the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) pieces started to be fired on top of each other. Stacked firing was done to produce pieces efficiently with larger kilns.


Then, in the latter half of the Muromachi Period, a variety of innovations began. Loading methods to bring out colors rich in changes to the Bizen ware were used, rather than loading kilns for mass production. As mentioned earlier, these methods included inserting several pieces inside of a pot, wrapping pieces in straw, stack firing pieces, etc.


By innovating the production processes and locations in which the kiln was loaded, Bizen ware began to be made with an intentional distinct feel.


There is even a kind of Bizen ware known as Bizen Gold-Speckled, which appears as golden stripes in the Bizen ware. There is also a kind of Bizen ware that glitters silver. Whatever it might be, new production methods are tried out daily to bring about changes to Bizen ware.

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