The anagama kiln is a large, wood fired kiln that is managed by Oxford University as the Oxford Anagama Project. In fact they have not just one, but two! They are run in conjunction with Jim Keeling of Whichford Pottery as a community project - potters can pay to have their pieces fired in the kiln, making a contribution to the cost of the timber fuel, and helping out with the firing itself. At present they are fired a couple of times a year.
The kilns are modelled on Japanese kilns from Bizen. There is a single firing chamber on a slope, fired at the downhill end and the chimney at the other end, the slope helping increase the draw. They are fired slowly, about a week of continuous feeding with timber, 24 hours a day, to get up to a top temperature of 1200 - 1250ºC, and then the best part of another week to cool down before the kiln can be opened and the results examined. Bizen ware is traditionally unglazed, allowing the heat, flames and ash to create a thin surface glaze on a red/brown clay, with variations depending on how the piece was exposed to the flames, the level of ash deposition, and the top temperature in that part of the kiln. Whilst there is no requirement for pieces to follow the Bizen style, and many do put slips or glazes onto their wares, there is an attraction to the simplicity of just using clay and fire, without the decorative veneer of the glaze.