Firing the Clay | A Natural State - Episode 5


"Green" pots are those that have dried naturally by sun and air circulation, but have yet to be fired. A sunny, windless day is the ideal setting for the day of a firing. Before firing, green pots are put into an oven at low heat, or around the outside of the fire pit. Pots appear dark grey when suitably dry and ready for the firing process.

The fire is typically made with dry oak, and lit and stoked until it produces a red hot bed of coals. Pots are placed directly in the coals and covered with a layer of coals and ash. Additional layers of bark or burning timber may be added to the pit to change or enhance the mottling of a pot’s coloration. The process of burning takes many hours.

Burning pots emit a fiery red glow as they are infused with the intense heat of the pit. People swap stories in anticipation of seeing their finished pots emerge from coals, while dreading the sound of a "pop" in the fire. A "pop" or "ping" may indicate a crack or break in the pottery, though dutiful preparation of the clay usually prevents such casualties. Firing is the final step in the pottery making process, and is a celebration of how raw clay, shaped by centuries of collected technique and wisdom, is transformed into art.

More in this Series

Natural State / Piedmont | A Natural State / Billie Anne McKellar