Friday, August 28, 2009

Genius of the Fire Blast

Genius of the Fire Blast, photo by Martie Geiger-Ho

When I showed you all a photo last week of my kiln ‘god,’ I kept wondering where this notion of a kiln god came from. It’s a pretty common potter thing to set a little sculpture on the kiln while firing. It’s like a talisman, or charm. It’s a bit of tradition.

It appears that the kiln god concept is quite ancient, originating in China. In fact there is more than one kiln god as many pottery villages in China had their own deity or guardian. I like Feng Ho Hsien, “Genius of the Fire Blast,” described by Martie Geiger-Ho. Cool name, eh? He was a potter who died when the Imperial kiln he was helping to fire collapsed. The Emperor then made him into a god to quiet the unrest of the repressed potters who produced the porcelain in Jingdezhen. Given I work mainly in porcelain, I think this is the kiln god for me. He even comes with 8 gaurdians and his own temple.

Potters Temple, Jingdezhen, photo by Martie Geiger-Ho

What is interesting to me is how this ancient tradition has been Westernized. Here, we make all sorts of little more or less impromptu sculptures that we call kiln gods. We even have a national kiln god competition. But I think there is a little something in many of us that wants an insurance policy. No matter how well you know how things work, no matter how many times we’ve done the same thing over and again, there is always a little error or even a disaster that can creep in when that kiln goes on.

Little Great Mother Kiln Goddess, Marti Geiger-Ho

Me, I think I’m going to head off to build a little temple for my kiln guardian. Well actually, mine's more like a kiln gargoyle. I might even make 8 gaurdians. I can use all the help I can get. I’m certainly going to dust him off to show just a bit more respect. And maybe even reunite him with the ear that’s gotten knocked off. He is after all the rabbit’s foot of my kiln. And speaking of lore….where does that one come from?

Have a fantabulous weekend everyone!


Katie said...

I love your kiln guardian - I can picture him coming to life in the middle of the night and dancing around on your kiln...He's got a look on his face like "Fire it up, lady...It's time for me to par-tay!" :o) (or I could just need some sleep...haha)

SummersStudio said...

Katie, I love that idea of the little guy dancing around in a mysterious ritual while I'm fast asleep.

Cindy said...

Your little gargoyle is kinda cute in a way. Watch just might catch him up to a bit of mischief!

stregata said...

I like your kiln god - he has character. And I like the idea that he dances on the kiln at night.
This was another great post, LeAnn. I didn't know potters all have a guardian for their kiln. Will have to keep it in mind when I get one.

mairedodd said...

i love to learn things like this! you picked a great one indeed - what a tragic death though... you are right in terms of honoring that element - as it is both creative and destructive... and i am with the girls, your fire gargoyle is awesome; he's a bit westernized which i think is appropriate... i know i am going on a bit of a tangent, but... gargoyles were created in france to be water pipes, right? to direct the rain off of roofs and away from the walls... in a way, he is the ultimate protective entity as the two elements are united and yet opposite... he watches over your kiln but possesses the ability to quench fire if necessary!

mairedodd said...

sorry, forgot to add this - here's some info i found on the lucky rabbit's foot... kind of gross...

SummersStudio said...

Cindy, I forgot to mention that my gargoyle was made special for me by my son when he was about 15. Definitely a mischevious age.

Renate, you definitely will need a gaurdian! It is a fun, if a bit silly ritual.

Maire, that is so incredibly cool and I will never think of my gargoyle in the same way again. How nice of you to uncover this double imagery for me. Off to check out the rabbits foot lore. Personally, I think carrying around a rabbits foot is a gross idea anyway so I can kind of imagine where it might come from.

TesoriTrovati said...

That is so have such respect for the beauty of your kiln to appoint a guardian...or eight! I think that the idea that we need a muse or a god or whatever to help inspire and protect us is something that we can all relate to...remember those kitchen witches that were popular in the 80s? I am thinking that I need a bead fairy or some such. I actually have a print of a gorgeous piece of original art by my friend Vanessa Valencia at A Fanciful Twist that is presiding on a shelf in my studio. It is called the Muse Finds Her Voice...especially good for me who sings too!
Thanks for the fun information!
Enjoy the day!

bellajoya said...

Hey Leann, I sent you a little blog gift! Check my blog when you get a chance for all the details!

The Joy of Nesting said...


Because of termites and no large trees houses are still built with bricks. Most brick is supplied by local family run brick makers. They all have their "Kilns" out in the yard and will fire bricks and clay pottery. Because it's still a very Catholic country instead of kiln gods there is always their patron saint on the kilns. A prayer is offered when they fire up the kilns and then again when they are opened. Oh yeah these are all still wood burning because there are no electric berry bushes here :)

Interesting how different cultures have a lot of the same basic beliefs but each culture puts it's own spin on them :)

Pattie ;)
Mazatlan Mexico

LexieJewel said...

So technically you will be making some more 'porcelain gods'? LOL!!! That was very interesting.....I had no idea of that ancient tradition! We can definitely all use a little watching over, that's for sure!

SummersStudio said...

Erin, maybe I should make you a bead fairy :-)

Thanks, Bella

Pattie, that is so true how many cultures have similar traditions but expressed differently. I love how in Mexico, many of the older indigenous traditions have been incorporated into Catholic traditions. I wonder if there is a similar thing with kiln shrines.

Lexie, the porcelain god thing was one of the many that made me laugh when I was looking at this.