Fire It Up Series: Pottery Kiln Types 101
Kilns are one of the most important aspects of finalizing your clay art. They help turn your raw piece into finished ceramic art that you can keep, gift to friends and family, or sell from your own personal shop. Different kiln types can give you different finishes for your clay art based on how you want it to look. Playing around with these different types and finishes can help you to create a style that fits your personality.
This is the second blog in the DiamondCore® Tools Fire It Up series where we will dive further into pottery kiln types so you can learn which pottery firing technique will work best for you!
Electric kilns are the most common way to fire your pottery. With their built-in digital displays, they are easy to use and fire your pottery exactly how you want. Typically, they are less expensive than some of the other methods that we will mention below. Depending on the style you have, you can either load them through the front or from the top.
Insulated bricks line the inside of the kiln, and coils surrounding them then heat up to fire your pieces of art. Overall, electric kilns are reliable and will do the job you need them to do! You can even set the kiln to fire your pieces on a schedule so that you can complete batches at a time when you need them.
With gas kilns, you can control the atmosphere that your work is exposed to, helping you finalize your piece exactly how you want it to look! Many ceramic artists and potters who use gas kilns can add unique touches to their work. Most gas kilns are fueled by natural gas or propane. A benefit of using gas kilns versus electric is that you can use reduction firing methods. This means you can reduce the amount of oxygen inside your kiln, allowing the ability to change the texture of your clay.
Wood-burning kilns are much less common today than electric or gas kilns, but they are one of the oldest methods for firing pottery. This type of kiln can be hand-built by the potter! This is done by collecting bricks or adobe and then forming them into the shape of an igloo or small cave. Even though this option is cheaper and easier than initially purchasing an electric or gas kiln, it is more labor-intensive and can take days to finish your piece.
Soda firing is not as familiar to some as the other options mentioned, but it can create beautifully textured pieces! Soda firing is done by adding baking soda and sodium carbonate into the kiln as it reaches a temperature around 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the baking soda and sodium carbonate will vaporize and disperse throughout the kiln. The vapor adheres to the pottery within the kiln and creates a highly textured glaze.
Raku firing involves removing your pottery from the kiln when it’s red hot. The pieces are then placed in a container with paper or sawdust which then catch fire as the hot pottery touches it. This creates an oxygen-reduction environment that produces unpredictable results, but each piece is unique. If the pieces in your kiln do not have glaze on them, this process will take oxygen from the clay itself. Overall, the pieces that you create will have an earthy, rugged look to them that has a crackle pattern.
This method of firing pottery dates back as far as the 16th century. Traditionally, the pieces made for this firing process are handmade, not thrown. It is an exciting technique that allows potters to be surprised each time they finish their work.
This method of firing your pieces can connect you with the earth itself. You can dig a pit in your backyard, placing your clay pieces in sawdust at the bottom. You can then surround the pieces with a variety of different organic materials and copper carbonate/sulphate. A large amount of dry wood is then placed over the pieces along with paper and straw.
Once the fire is lit, it burns for 4 to 6 hours before the pit is sealed for 70 hours for cooling. After, you can go in and see the finished pieces, which need to be dug out of the ash. It is an exciting experience for potters as they wait to see how their work has turned out.
The Right Kiln Method For You
Finding the right method for firing your pieces is an journey that only you can take. You are choosing how you want your art to look and what style you enjoy the most. Different firing techniques take different amounts of time, and they can create different experiences for everyone. Taking the time to learn about the firing method that is best for you will perfect your finished work and can allow you to gain different textures and styles for your art.
Once you find a method that works for you, you can use it as your own personal style as you continue to make pieces for yourself, friends and family, or for customers for your business.
Do you have questions about safety or choosing the right firing methods for your desired results? We’re here to help! Leave a comment below, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with our team via social media. We’re on Facebook and Instagram!