Smokeless Wood Kiln for Ceramics
Cerdeira has a ceramics kiln which is unique in Portugal.
It was designed and built under the supervision of the Japanese master ceramist Sensei Masakazu Kusakabe in August 2015. The building of the oven was financed by a crowdfunding campaign on PPL, to which 250 people and organisations donated, raising the ten thousand euros necessary to purchase the materials.
It was built over two weeks by a dozen Portuguese ceramists, guided by the Japanese master during a memorable event, focused on working and sharing.
The work was carried out between the 13th and 27th of August, 2015, and the artistic project at Cerdeira now benefits from a piece of equipment that’s unique in Portugal and fundamental to national artistic production in the area of modern pottery and ceramics.
The idea came from a suggestion made by the Portuguese ceramist Ricardo Lopes, to provide the artistic project at Cerdeira with a different and unique kiln, the Sasunekei Smokeless Kiln, developed by the Japanese master Masakazu Kusakabe.
This kiln produces no smoke and lets you reduce firing time, which means that as well as breathing life into fantastic, original pieces, it avoids polluting the environment and the excessive use of wood.
Why should we use a wood oven for firing ceramics in the modern day? This ancestral technique has, in recent years, become ever more important for modern ceramics, due to the beauty of the objects it creates, the varied effects, the glazing, and the challenge of working with fire in such an ancient and complex piece of equipment.
With the construction of this wood oven, Portuguese ceramists now have equipment available to them that lets them, using less wood, fire ceramics in only 36 hours, achieving effects in their ceramics that are usually unattainable if they are fired for six days or more.
The kiln has already been used to fire the work of Portuguese artists, as well as foreign ones. We periodically organise workshops that let people with different levels of experience and professionals have a unique experience with the smokeless kiln.
In March 2016, José Maria Gil brought her students from the Autonomous Universiy of Madrid to Cerdeira to use the smokeless kiln. This project was supported by the Portuguese ceramists Xana Monteiro and Carlos Lima.
In September of the same year, the Japanese master Masakazu Kusakabe returned to Cerdeira to lead two Master Workshops. The first was with a small group of artists from various places in Europe, and aimed to explore the properties and potentials of the local red clay for sculpture. The clay is normally used for local pottery, and it needs to be fired at a lower temperature.
In the second Master Workshop, he surrounded himself with a group of excellent Portuguese ceramists, with the aim of giving the benefit of his 50 years experience with wood kilns to his Portuguese friends. Days of hard work followed, with two firings at high temperatures, and almost 600 pieces were produced. There was a rich exchange of knowledge about recipes and the secrets of ash glazing, with fantastic results.
Masakazu Kusakabe will return to Cerdeira in June of this year. It’s his favourite place in Europe thanks to its beauty, the closeness to nature, the oven, always unique, the Cerdeira Village project and, above all, the way he is welcomed by Portuguese artists.
Two week-long workshops have been planned to continue this fantastic project and give the opportunity to others, both professionals and those who are just interested, to spend time with and work with Sensei Masakazu Kusakabe. He is a true master, wise, with deep and broad knowledge, always a great ambassador for his culture.