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Pope Valley Anagama
Wood-fired Kiln 

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Pope Valley Anagama

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Richard Carter

In scenic Pope Valley, California, ceramic artist Richard Carter gathers a community of potters a few times a year to perform the two-week process of firing his Japanese-style anagama. The anagama is a traditional style of kiln used in Japan for centuries. The kiln is constructed in a way to direct heat and ash through the long vaulted chamber to create varying temperatures along the length of the kiln. The wood ash adheres to the clay and forms a kind of glaze.

I had the good fortune to photograph an international group of potters as they loaded the kiln and then maintained the fire around the clock over the course of nine days. The firing of the kiln is not only an artistic endeavor, but also a remarkable community event. Everyone works together, lives together, and eats together during the firing. Conversation ranges from the mundane topics of organizing fire-stoking and cooking shifts to more philosophical subjects, such as the nature of art and leading a creative life.

The location of the Pope Valley Anagama is like a sanctuary away from the stress of modern life, and the community is incredibly positive and welcoming. It was a real honor to be invited into this community and to gather a few short glimpses of the work of firing an anagama.

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