So, I built one! With the help of a long-time friend and mentor from Taos, we designed and built a two-chamber kiln with thirty-five cubic feet of stacking space; the front chamber is a “mini-anagama” for ash and flash, the back chamber is a single-arch noborigama, designed to use with soda.

Why did I hesitate for years before building my own kiln? Because of my gender? Age? Pottery chops? Expense? All of those, plus questioning my capabilities. In my hippie days, I always gravitated towards physical challenges, even preferring ditch digging to making meals or watching children. For years I split and stacked wood at others’ kilns, but it was daunting to think of doing it myself. Never had I used a chainsaw, nor had I ever recruited potters to help fill the kiln with pots, participate in firing, and prepare wood. Plus, I had not stayed up all night in a long while—an inevitability of the process. Why would I choose to take all that on? The challenges attracted and intimidated me. Previously, I’d produced glazed work fired in an electric kiln, but the results, although lovely, did not ignite any passion. The tactile sensations of unglazed wood-fired pieces and the exquisite beauty of flashing spoke to my soul. My desire to take on my own wood kiln began to grow as I helped fire other kilns.  What finally convinced me was the comment from another woman wood-firer: “Nance, you’re a potter, and potters have kilns.”

Magnusson effortlessly wielding her sharp-bladed chainsaw.Methodically, I set out to resolve my inner doubts. I knew I had to overcome chainsaw trepidation. I quizzed a chainsaw salesman mercilessly. Requesting the shortest and the lightest saw on the market, I learned from the salesman about safe chainsaw use, potential dangers, and maintenance. Other folks working and shopping in the store gathered 'round to contribute their advice. I was a novelty.

I ordered all of the necessary equipment, including bricks and angle iron, plus sand and trap rock for the foundation. A friend donated tools. Delivery of the bricks was eventful. The driver of a rather large shipping truck refused to come down our driveway to unload. He had a meltdown over the rural location of my home and the narrow dirt road in the middle of the woods of Massachusetts that led to the house and kiln site. After considerable whining and calls to his dispatcher, he unloaded pallets of bricks and materials in the middle of the road. So there I was with tons of brick blocking the street. Fortunately, I lived in a small, friendly town. With one phone call, the first selectman closed the road until his buddy arrived with a forklift.

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