Making ceramics at home without a kiln may not seem like an achievable task but even those who find themselves on a smaller budget are able to do so.
While most would expect not to be able to carry out this process without the usage of a kiln, there are ways around this issue. In this article, I will try to point out what I think are the most important things to keep in mind, based on my experience.
Be Safe !
Since the kiln is used to contain the heat so that higher temperatures can be reached without the excessive usage of fuel, it is important to follow all of the safety regulations when making ceramics at home without a kiln. Be sure to research the local regulations and fire safety codes before proceeding.
Keeping a sizable amount of water close by is also in your best interests. Don’t leave the fire unattended and have a shovel and some dirt handy. In order to get started, you will need a pile of wood. Some dry kindling is the perfect choice. Place this dry kindling inside of a stone or brick ring.
Clean the area first so that the fire is not at risk of spreading. The pottery is then place on top of the dry kindling pile. Once the wood begins to burn, the pots may be at risk of tumbling into the ashes so bear this in mind while arranging it. Believe me, when this happens it is extremely frustrating !
More Common Sense Tips
If you have any additional stones and bricks that can be used as a means of supporting the pile, it is a good idea to add them at this time. Leaving enough space for the kindling to successfully fuel the fire is a crucial step in the process. Some may decide that they wish to place broken pottery pieces onto the fire as well. I usually do this as well.
Tin roof scraps and old tin cans are also used by many people. Create an exhaust opening at the top and provide the proper coverage. By using animal dung or swamp grass as an added layer, this will trap the heat inside. The moisture will keep the heat in and allow you to avoid the annoyances associated with having the fire burn off too soon.
Proper Ventilation Tips
Vent openings need to be added to the bottom of the fire. The wood needs to get air so that the clay can bake and burn at its hottest. When creating the top exhaust opening, remember the importance of allowing air flow to take place at the bottom. To start the fire, wads of paper can be lit at the vents.
Having worries about breakage ? Providing the top vent with some partial coverage serves to restrict the burn. Do not close the vent for long, though. Otherwise, the fuel will not burn as quickly or reach the proper temperature. As soon as the fuel has finished burning, cover up the area with some dry dirt.
Those who are looking to create black ceramics enjoy this tactic because it chokes off the air and gives them darker pots. Wait until the temperature has cooled before attempting to retrieve your handiwork. You don`t want any burned fingers because of your impatience. I had to learn this patience the hard way (by burning my fingers at least 5 or 6 times). There are going to be mistakes along the way but there is nothing wrong with simply enjoying the process as much as possible.
Trial And Error
Experimentation is the name of the game. Some mistakes are going to be made. Believe me when I tell you : I probably made dozens of mistakes in my first 3 or 4 months trying to make my own pottery at home. This process is all about trial and error. The pots need to be crafted at a uniform level of thickness so that they will not break. If limestone is included, this is going to cause serious problems. Lime contaminants cause pieces of the clay to pop off when they are exposed to the atmosphere.
Pre-Dry Pieces In Your Kitchen Stove
While a kitchen stove is never going to provide the temperatures that are needed for a project of this magnitude, these stoves can play a very important role in the process. Pre-drying the pieces before they are taken outside to be fired is a pivotal step. Setting the oven at 190 degrees is a great way to dry them so that accidents do not take place in an outdoor setting.
Resist the temptation to use a kitchen stove in place of a kiln. This may seem like a smart idea in the moment but you are only placing yourself at risk of having a fire take place. The temperatures that are needed to handle this task are simply not attainable indoors. Clay needs to be fired at a temperature of at least 1,000 degrees.
There is no oven in your home that can replicate these temperatures safely. The safety features that have been designed for the stove are not going to allow you to reach these temperatures. The clay is not going to turn into ceramics that can be sold to a willing customer and this will serve as a waste of money and supplies, as well as probably having angry customers demanding refunds !
Continue With Your Experiments
If the pots that are created end up dissolving in water, this a sign that you did not make the fire hot enough. The color and texture is going to be much different when you create ceramics at home without a kiln and you need to be willing to experiment. Colors and textures are always going to vary. These are not defects, this is just simply part of the learning stage. I did a lot of experimentation when I began making pottery at home, and I also started without having a kiln.
Water may soak through the pot and this is not a defect either. As long as the clay was fired at the proper temperature, this is not an issue that will lead to any long term damages. Pieces can still be created from home to sell to potential customers even if you do not have a kiln. Just be sure you are 100% honest with your customers about this. All you need to do is follow the aforementioned directions and you are well on your way to creating some really nice ceramics !