The Island Gallery
steve sauer
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Santatsugama Three Dragon Kiln, Seabeck, Washington


Background of The Santatsugama Three Dragon Kiln

The Santatsugama kiln is representative of the traditional Japanese anagama kiln. It is a long tunnel shaped structure with a firebox at one end and a chimney at the other. Often built on a hill, the kiln’s intense heat produces the elegant wood fired ceramics revered in Japan and with a growing following throughout the United States and abroad. Steve Sauer, Ken Lundemo and Mel Wallis built this kiln over a two-year period, starting in 1995, inspired by the experience of well-known ceramic artist, Hiroshi Ogawa, who built a similar kiln in Elkton, Oregon.

The Santatsugama is fired about four times a year. During firings, some 8-9 potters work in shifts over several weeks, first loading the kiln over two days, then continuously feeding and stoking the fires for five days until the interior temperatures reach 2000-plus degrees Fahrenheit. It then takes seven days of cooling down before the door can be opened. Along with this extreme heat, many other elements affect the outcome of each object placed in the kiln: clay; season of firing; condition and genus of wood; location within the kiln chamber; and glazes. Steve Sauer says that the anagama “has stood the test of time and for me is the most inspirational. For its ware is unmatched in its subtle beauty, organic and true to life processes.”