A Centre for Wood Fired Ceramics in Oxford

Oxford University Kilns was set up by Robin Wilson of Oxford University to be a centre for wood fired ceramics in Oxford, using the facilities and resources of the University owned Wytham Woods, on the edge of town.

On site we have two kilns, the original Willow Kiln, a replica of a typical Anagama kiln, and the newer Test Kiln, made of modern firebricks and smaller so it can be fired more frequently. We also have a pit for pit-firing, and experimental archaeologists from the University use the site for bronze smelting and casting. A plentiful supply of wood comes from the everyday forestry activities in the woods, which are managed in a sustainable way.

Our main activity is in firing the kilns. Firings are led by a number of our more experienced potters; some are run as open events, whereas others are restricted to a team invited by the lead potter. We also are involved with the activities of students and academics at the University, with schools in the area, and with the Ashmolean Museum.

We publish an occasional newsletter, which contains reports on past events, forthcoming opportunities to participate, and articles on wood firing. We also publish details of events on our Facebook and Instagram pages. If you want to get involved, whether you want to help in a firing or just see some of the work produced, your best bet is to follow us on social media and subscribe to the newsletter.

pics here

A Brief History of the Project

The project began when when Robin Wilson (who is an anthropologist and also runs the Wytham Studio, a print studio based in the woods) got together with potter Jim Keeling of Whichford Pottery, who had contacts with the ceramics community in Bizen, one of the major ceramics centers in Japan.

After selecting the site in the autumn of 2014, ground was first broken in January 2015. In April, work began on the Willow Kiln. This was built in the traditional way, using a lattice of willow wythies. The building and initial firing of this kiln was overseen by Kazuya Ishida (Kaz), wh came over from Bizen. By July, this kiln was essentially complete, and it had its first, successful, firing in August.

In July a larger team came over from Bizen for the construction of the Brick Kiln, another Anagama to a Bizen design but using modern firebricks. This was led by kiln specialist Takuma Takikawa. Being a much bigger kiln, construction took longer, but it’s first firing was in January 2016.

Strong links were built up between Bizen and our project, with Japanese potters coming over here, and Robin and Jim going out to Bizen to exhibit some of our pots and meet Japanese potters.

We found that the two kilns were really too large for tying out new things and learning – they took too many pots, used too much wood, and took too long. So in December 2016 Whichford built a small test kiln on their site.