The Mobile Anagama

A poetic excerpt about Mobile Anagama from my 2014 NCECA Graduate Student Fellowship proposal:

As a tool, it will be well crafted and work efficiently to produce the desired results. As an art object, it will question the aesthetics of process and challenge the criteria we consider in assigning value. As a stage, it will provide a platform for collaborative performances; presenting the art as the blurred line between object and individual. As an institution, it will explore challenges and interactions as educational opportunities, questioning pedagogical norms. As an economic machine, it will serve to generate artifacts of value that may be tested in experimental markets. As an embassy, it will serve as a diplomat to the art world, inspiring trust and interest in craft processes and contemporary practices. As a non-partisan activist demonstration, it will display a utopian restructuring, highlighting one's ability to transform the materials that make their world.

The Mobile Anagama began as a proposal for a 2015 NCECA Graduate Student Fellowship. The proposal was to build a mobile wood fueled kiln from recycled materials on a donated trailer and to then conduct a small scale tour exploring the kiln as a platform for site specific collaborations. After I was awarded the fellowship and began to collect the reclaimed materials from which the kiln was to be constructed, it became clear that the initial design was inadequate to endure the stress of travel. The kiln, as the facilitator of these individual projects, would need to safely arrive and function at each of its firing destinations. This reality prompted a total rethinking of the project’s design, budget, timeline, and subsequent value as an artistic gesture.

The new design goal was to construct the most functional and visually striking mobile wood-fueled kiln possible. The ability to efficiently assemble, fire, and disassemble the kiln in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of fuel while maintaining a sizable but manageable firing chamber, would make the kiln appealing and capable in the widest variety of conditions. However, along with the more technical design came a dramatically increased budget and a compressed timeframe for the tour events. It became clear that there would not be sufficient time to conduct a tour that could be truly collaborate with the individual locations with the people involved. I needed to reevaluate the intent of the project.

With an increased investment of money, time, and materials, and a shortened time frame in which to make them worthwhile, it became difficult to justify the new design using the project’s original equation for determining its success, an equation weighing the project’s social impact against the material investment that would be required to make it happen. After the construction of the kiln was finished, the first firing went extremely well and brought about a new conception of the tour. The new design maximized the kiln’s functionality; the tour would expose the design as a practical system that others could replicate and use to conduct their own site-specific events. The new design could justify its sustainability through its increased visibility and consequent emulation. The tour was a publicity stunt on a national scale. We visited reputable centers of ceramic art, gave credibility to the design, and displayed its potential to the largest number people. The tour became the parade and testament of a form that inherently supports the actions that I initially intended to provoke. By propagating a mobile wood fired kiln format, the applications and reach of the ceramic process can be extended more sustainably and to a broader audience. Although the focus of the tour shifted from the programming of site specific projects to highlighting The Mobile Anagama’s design, the tour itself also became an autonomous performance. With an amplified mix of craft activism, youthful exuberance, and the romantic notion of the open road, we built a narrative more grand the some of its parts, because unlike the objects and the individual encounters of our journey, the whole story, the true story, is one that can never actually be told.

It is my observation that a sense of adventure is the thing that most artists seek in their work, but it is also often the part of being an artist that is most difficult to display because it is also often the thing that is most difficult to quantify and sell. The Mobile Anagama has been a fantastic tool in assisting me to explore and expose the value of adventure in my work.

 Thank you so much to everyone to helped make this project possible: Dan, Albi, Kickstarter backers, other Alfred University people, host institutions, participants and others - you know who you are. Thank you.

If you would like to view and read a small photo book about the Mobile Anagama tour, please download "The Mobile Anagama Tour" book available under the 'Downloads' tab AND enjoy!

If you are interested in building your own mobile wood-fired kiln, please download the “Mobile Anagama 2.0 Design Document” available under the 'Downloads' tab AND good luck!