Hillary's unique ceramics are focused on the use of a single-chamber Japanese-style wood kiln called an Anagama.
These particular ceramic pieces were fired in a single-chamber Japanese-style wood kiln called an Anagama.
These kilns are traditionally built partially buried into a hillside and have the appearance of a long rising tunnel. They range in size, as well as length of firing (these pieces were fired for around 58 consecutive hours). Wood is the single and only fuel used to attain a temperature of 1280C or higher throughout the kiln. The wood acts however, not only as the source of temperature gain, but also the essential decorative element, as most of the ware is fired without any applied glaze whatsoever.
Throughout the firing, tiny particles of wood ash float through the kiln as if on a river of flame. These particles settle thinly or densely upon the ware, depending upon the placement of a piece, and create a patina that ranges enormously in color, texture, and sheen. The flame itself also plays a role in “painting” the clay surfaces, as it searches for the most expedient path through the kiln.
The variables involved in such a firing are many and only slightly controllable. It is precisely the enormous element of chance that intrigues and bewilders and intrigues yet again. It is truly an alchemy: the serendipitous process of turning wet earth into a solid vessel of stone whose sheen looks as if it had been dredged from the most ancient of shipwrecks-- a patina worthy of gold.