Description of Furutani's Anagama Book

Pages: 204 (titles, introductions, table of contents, and glossary occupy an additional 20 pages) Pictures and Diagrams: 224 B&W photographs, 42 line drawing, 4 color plates

Furutani's book contains four major sections. It begins with a short historical background of anagama kilns describing how they may have been invented and how this technology was brought to Japan from Korea.

Next, Furutani devotes a significant amount of time discussing how to build anagama kilns. Before the first brick is laid, Furutani discusses site selection variables which play a significant role in the success of any kiln. He then describes the building process in a step by step manner. Importantly, Furutani explains the purposes underlying the various sub-structures within anagama kilns. This is important for two reasons - first, it brings understanding to what can be very mysterious. Secondly, it allows for improvisation for those instances in which materials commonly available in Japan, are not available in your locale.

The third major division of the book is devoted to loading and firing anagama kilns. Furutani explains how deeply critical proper loading of the kiln is, giving examples of good and bad techniques. After loading, he details the firing process including a variety of techniques, and strategies for overcoming difficulties in the firing.

His section on firing has the potential to significantly expand one's wood-fire vocabulary. One learns that "ash glaze" is but a generalization, in the same way that "clay" is a generalization. For example, nobody would confuse earthenware with porcelain - yet both are "clay". Furutani describes a number of "ash glaze" effects and how to go about achieving them.

The book ends with a series of anecdotes which touch on various aspects of anagama work. The anecdotes deal with various technical matters, are sometimes a little poignant, sometimes funny. Although more loosely organized than the earlier portions of the book, each anecdote provides a lesson for the reader rooted in the basics described in the earlier chapters.

As the only major guidebook to anagama construction and firing in English, this book is unique. For the novice it provides enough instruction to get started. For the expert, it will likely raise awareness of the subtlety possible in wood-firing.

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