While modern electric and gas-fired kilns provide the most consistent ceramic firing methods, they can be cost-prohibitive for amateur potters or developing studios.
Thankfully, there are many ways to successfully fire clay and ceramics without investing in a traditional kiln. Primitive firing techniques date back thousands of years and still offer satisfying, artistic results.
Here we will provide an in-depth look at firing clay without a kiln using various methods:
Pit firing involves placing pottery in a shallow pit dug into the ground and building a wood fire over it. Combustibles like sawdust, leaves, paper, and organic waste are added to produce smoke and limited flame for smothered firing effects.
Benefits of pit firing:
Barrel firing uses a 55-gallon steel drum laid horizontally on bricks to create a rudimentary kiln chamber. Firing is done by burning wood in the bottom and funneling heat/smoke through the barrel full of pottery.
Benefits of barrel firing:
This technique involves loading pottery inside a protective ceramic fiber or refractory brick container called a saggar. The saggar is then placed inside a standard kiln and fired.
Benefits of saggar firing:
For more advanced builders, permanent wood-fired kilns can be constructed from brick and other heatproof materials. Though labor intensive, these offer the enhanced capabilities of traditional kilns without the expense. Consider types like:
Benefits of DIY kilns:
You can achieve successful clay firing without a commercial kiln with creativity and persistence. Tap into time-honored techniques for your own artistic fired finishes.