In an ideal world, all pottery enthusiasts would have a kiln at home where they can fire their creations. Or, all have access to a professional studio nearby. But, it isn’t easy to set up your own kiln at home as it can take a lot of organization and building. Also, while there are some kilns for sale online, the list of best pottery kilns for home use is limited. So, how can you fire pottery without a kiln?
How to fire pottery without a kiln?
Don’t worry if you can’t afford to buy a kiln for your home or aren’t confident enough to build one for yourself. There are alternative options available. In fact, some of the more interesting effects are achieved when using more traditional forms of firing. With the right set-up and the best combustible materials, you can create some wonderful pieces. Check out the following options and see if any of these spark your interest.
Can you fire pottery at home in a kitchen oven?
This is a common question when playing around with clay at home for the first time. If a standard oven in the kitchen can bake all kinds of food at various temperatures, can we fire our pottery in there? Personally, I wouldn’t recommend trying this for anything that you are keen to fire to perfection. You can try out the different temperatures and see what happens, but you might not get a strong firing or any result at all. It all depends on the clay you use and the temperature and duration. A standard oven isn’t going to get hot enough for a lot of work and it isn’t going to work for glazing.
However, you could still use clays that you can fire at low temperatures, such as around 120 degrees Celsius. The worst-case scenario is that you pre-set the oven, put your work on a baking tray in there for an hour or so, and then either nothing happens or it breaks. That’s why I recommend only doing this for experimentation rather than commercial work or gifts.
Pit firing is one of the most interesting ways of firing clay without a kiln.
The most intriguing option if you like to play around with effects and materials is pit firing. As the name suggests, it all starts with a pit. This sheltered hole in the ground should be secure enough to hold a fire and heat the pottery for as much as 24 hours. Some people go out into the wilderness or to the beach and create pits outside, camping nearby overnight to keep an eye on things. If you want to do this at home, you can create your own pit in your yard that you can use time and time again. Or, you could use a sandpit as a substitute for the beach.
I think this is a brilliant idea if you want to experiment with the marks and effects on your work without the use of glazes. The best way to do this is to add combustible materials with the pot inside the pit. The right material can lead to some interesting patterns and colors, such as using straw or seaweed. Some people place feathers on the pots on retrieval just before they cool. It also isn’t unheard of for potters to use hair or pet fur for a deeper connection to the work.
Raku pottery firing.
Finally, there is the option of Raku. The Japanese process of Raku pottery is an incredible way to create beautiful designs with a sense of drama. Raku is one of these processes that can be a triumph or a disaster. The glazed pot is placed in a bisque fire at as high a temperature as it can handle. The barrel for your pottery has to be close enough to the fire to reach temperatures of around 760 to 980 Celsius. It should go without saying that this exceptionally hot so you need to be careful.
Once you think your piece is at the right temperature, you remove it with tongs and plunge it into water. The heat shock should be enough to create some dramatic effects on the glaze. Or, it could be enough to break the pot.