Sunday, January 5, 2014

What is a Kiln God/Goddess??

Sitting here in front of our wood stove, staying awake all night (to sleep during the day) to ensure the fire stays stoked... my mind started wandering.  My first pottery instructor and mentor was quite superstitious about the kiln goddess being placed on top of the kiln for every firing.  Staring into the fire tonight..I got to thinking about the origin of the kiln god/goddess...And I'll be damned if I couldn't find anything!  So here is my interpretation based on some background knowledge I have of ancient cultures.  :)  
Khnum - god of rebirth, creation and the evening sun
As with any "good luck" talisman, the power of the kiln god/goddess is due to the belief/faith in it by the creator.  A kiln god/goddess is created by the potter to be placed near the kiln opening.  In the ancient Chinese and Egyptian cultures, these little statues were thought to be safe keepers of the pots.  The craftsmen of the time did not know what caused certain issues with pottery:  crazing, cracking, pinholes, and explosions.  Today, we know that explosions of pots occur because there was still moisture trapped within the clay body (the clay was not completely dry before the firing process began).  Crazing occurs when a glaze and clay body do not have the same shrinkage and/or expansion rates at the designated/desired temperatures.  Cracking occurs due to stress placed on the piece.  The most common cracks experienced by potters are "S-Cracks" which occur on the bottom of a wheel thrown pot; most often due to lack of adequate compression before pulling the sides of the vessel up.  And pin-holing occurs as a result of trapped gases trying to escape while the glaze is molten, but not doing so before the temperature inside the kiln cools enough so that the glaze begins to crystallize and harden before the air bubble has "healed".
Historically, kiln gods can be found in the traditions of many ancient cultures including the Chinese (Zhu Rong- the god of fire) and the Egyptian (Khnum- protector of all things made on the wheel).  **Stay tuned and look for more posts about the various ancient deities**

Zhu Rong
"Western kiln gods are most often displayed on the roof of a kiln just over the kiln door where they can “watch” over the firing, while the kiln gods of China are generally positioned in their own permanent Taoist or “folk religion” temple or shrine, that is always located near the kiln. Furthermore, in Chinese cities such as Jingdezhen and Hong Kong, kiln gods are worshiped and honored as important deities that help to protect the welfare of the entire ceramic community." - Martie Geiger-Ho
 They could also be found in Ancient Roman/Greek ceramics communities.  I remember reading an article about it...but for the life of me cannot remember which publication it was from...  

I keep meaning to make a kiln goddess to place a top my kiln.  But in the last 1.5 years I have been firing bisque/glaze kilns in my home studio..I have yet to have a mishap... *knock on wood*.  I like the history and tradition behind I do believe I'm going to be making one sooner rather than later. :)

Do YOU have a kiln god/goddess?  Or what about a general good luck talisman for your arts/crafts?  Please share below!

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