Interview with Taiwanese Kiln Builders
Kiln Builders of Taiwan
Zhunan Snake Kiln was established in 1972 by the late Lin Tien-Fu who led nine craftsmen and an ox, made his own moulds, produced three thousand adobe bricks and worked nine days to complete the 25-meter long snake kiln. At the time, the kiln produced mainly ceramic flower pots. Zhunan Snake Kiln is one of the few remaining snake kilns in Taiwan that is well-preserved and still firing.
In the 1980’s Zhunan Snake Kiln underwent a transformation to move from the traditional pottery industry to folk craft ceramics. Recently they have been dedicated to the creation of wood-fired ceramic art, research of ceramic culture, and courses in traditional ceramic craft and wood-firing. It also promotes Taiwanese ceramic kiln culture through international events.
In 2001 Zhunan Snake Kiln was selected as one of Taiwan’s 100 Historic Buildings, then registered as a Historic Building of Miaoli County in 2002. In 2012, the second generation kiln master Lin Jui-Hwa was selected as a Taiwan Craft Family. Zhunan Snake Kiln is operated as an ecological museum of traditional pottery, extending the Taiwanese ceramic and kiln culture heritage as well as promoting the lifestyle aesthetics of wood-fired ceramic art. It aims to pioneer a new path between traditional craft and modern art.
In 50 years since its founding – surrounded by rice fields – Zhunan Snake Kiln now stands in the middle of the Zhunan Town. Firing in the way that minimizes pollution in urban area of Taiwan island made Zhunan Snake Kiln’s leading potter Lin Jui-Hwa think about alternative ways of firing and also kiln building. He developed a technique and kiln architecture that allows him to reach extremely high temperatures at the most sufficient and ecological way. With that philosophy he wanted to show how high temperature ceramics can be at its peak: most energy efficient, durable, and beautiful all at once. His philosophy combines profound qualities of ancient ways of creating and firing ceramics with wood, a way that is quite difficult to achieve in modern times of living.
In 2013, Lin Jui-Hwa revealed wood-fired works fired at 1551℃. In 2016, he set the Guinness World Record of 1563℃, the highest known temperature for wood-fired ceramics. However, hidden behind these figures is a deeper meaning and a vision for the future of ceramics.
We invite you to read more about wood firing here.
At his side are working his closest colleague Liank Wu, his wife Sophia and niece Yu-Ting Teng, also a potter, who will all join us here in Slovenia.
Eco-friendly Wood Firing
There is a lot to consider to be a responsible wood-firer. Optimisation of energy and sustainability of creating any kind of art are two of the most important aspects of our modern thinking in our studio as well as in the Ceramic Center Zhunan Snake Kiln.
To truly work with nature is to take care of it in a way that it efficiently regenerates itself and our impact is only a gentle change of time and space that recycles itself easily.
In our mission to reach sustainability we considered building materials for the kiln to be the best and locally made, for firing we sourced waste wood from local saw-mills and for producing ceramics we searched for ingredients that are naturally available in the region.
Zhunan Snake Kiln wrote:
“A lot of people mistakenly think wood-firing is harmful to the environment: wood is burnt, trees are cut and black smoke is created. However, in fact, wood-firing is the most environmentally friendly way to fire ceramics. It can even become an eco-friendly lifestyle that revolutionizes the values of human civilization.”