The Story (and science) of a Pot

These words I write are for the people, by that I mean, most people, ones not involved in the underrated world of ceramics.  I want to explain how this pot came into existence and shed light on the process so “the people”, my people, understand how cool ceramics really is.  It’s an art form, but it’s also a science!

For the ceramics savvy , this was soda fired inside a large bowl, that is the reason for the gradient colors, the bowl acted as a shield!  If that last sentence is confusing, keep reading.


Clay is intriguing due to its range of characteristics, it can be thin as syrup (slip), malleable like play dough, or stiff like soft wood (for the sake of knowledge, keep your mind out of the gutter).  Then you fire it and everything changes right down to its molecular level, clay turns into glass and stone.  The way this particular piece was fired is actually what makes it special but the making came first, so….

This bottle was thrown on the wheel and altered afterward by hand to give it its voluptuous and wavy form. It was fired in a kiln/furnace to 2,300 degrees for around 24 hours and the color and texture come from chemical reactions within the kiln during firing, I did not directly design the surface, but I did influence it.

I’ll admit, the transformation within the kiln is not as as mysterious as Santa Clause but it still feels like Christmas morning to open one.   The color and texture are the result of flame interacting with clay and its form.  You can think of every kiln as its own unique palette, then factor in the type of fuel you use, firing method, clay body, and glazes.  These all play a major roll in how the finished product will be.  Since this isn’t a college course and you don’t have 4 months to read I will fill you in on the most interesting part, the science of a soda kiln (also known as an atmospheric kiln)!

The type of kiln I used here is a Soda Kiln. During firing, sodium (similar to baking soda) is dissolved in water and sprayed into the kiln, instantly vaporizing, turning into a gas. Flame and vapor flow around the pots in streams and eddies like a river. (During loading the maker imagines these streams and tries to predict how his/her pot will be affected.)  As sodium gas flows through the kiln it turns to glass when it comes into contact with the pots and “glazes” the work. The dark green and black glossy area at the top of this bottle is where the vapor made heavy contact with the pot, the bottom is dry because it was totally protected from the streams of flame and vapor.

The interesting thing about this piece is that it was fired inside of a large bowl, protecting the bottom half from the vapor like a shield, that is why there is a gradient of texture and color from top to bottom.



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