I spent the better half of this past September in Gresham, Wisconsin assisting Simon Levin in firing his Anagama. To date, this has been my most influential experience in ceramics. Working with Simon and his apprentices, who are all very talented potters, has taught me a lot. Through working with them I have learned the importance in deciding who you surround yourself with. It is very inspiring to me to be at the bottom of the pack and feel the need to catch up.
We fired Simon's Anagama for six days and then downfired. Downfiring is a technique Simon developed. It is similar to reduction cooling but he lets the kiln re-oxidise after every stoke in the downfiring as opposed to keeping the kiln in reduction during the entire cooling cycle.
Simon also fires his kiln a lot cooler (in temperature) than most people. Cone ten's were down in the hottest parts after firing for six days. The kiln never got over 2200 degrees. The ash was melted by the heat work as opposed to just temperature, meaning heat over time.
The kiln is fired in a very controlled manor with a detailed hourly kiln log and thermocouple. Simon's goal is to produce lots of "information" on the surface of the pots. He has adapted the firing schedule in order to emphasize the surfaces he wants. He is also very conscious in loading the kiln. Every pot is very carefully wadded in place and some wads are hung between pots to create more information and flame path on the pots.