Building a kiln from local clay – Kirsten Perry

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Kirsten Perry
www.kirstenperry.com

Kirsten Perry is a ceramicist from Australia.  She came to Sachaqa to do a one month ceramics program.  Through a trip to neighboring port town of Chazuta, Kirsten discovered that it was possible to make a simple kiln out of clay.   We offer shuntu firing at the center which means firing work on an open fire.  But with Kirsten’s experiment she proved it possible to fire work using special firewood and local clay.  I asked Kirsten to write a blog post on how she achieved this.   So you guys can all have a go when you visit the center.  Simple but so effective.  Thank you Kirsten for your adventurous spirit and your willingness to get your hands – in the earth.

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This is what the natural clay from Chazuta looks like straight from the earth. Notice the orange and grey colour.

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Make a grill out of existing clay from San Roque or Chazuta. To replace, make bigger than existing one as it shrinks about 10%.

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.I found this soil/mud/clay down by the river next to the football pitch and noticed the colours were organe and grey, like Chazuta clay.

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It took me a long time to find a long rock down by the river to act as the support.

Picture8.pngI dug a long pit about 30cm deep about 60 cm long with a spade.

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It was a bit narrower than the width of the rock. It would have been better to find a wider rock.

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With some of the clay and mud (70/30) left over from the hole, I mixed it together with water and smoothed over the inside of the hole.

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I made the hole smaller than the width of the pit and smaller than the grill in first picture.

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 I fitted the grill over the top and smoothed it down. I made sure it had a thick wall of about 3-4 cm to hold the grill in place.

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From there I started to build up the wall with the clay I found. I removed any rocks or plant matter from the clay.

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I mixed the clay in the hole with water as seen here and built up the wall.

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I also made a clay lid with a small chimney. Make sure you remove any rocks.

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I smoothed the wall and lit a small fire for about 2 hours to help dry it out so it would be firm enough to keep building higher without collapseing.

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I mixed the clay in the hole with water as seen here and built up the wall.

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I built final height to about 25cm and smoothed wall. About 4-5cm thick walls.

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Make sure the top fits the lid you made earlier. Notice mouth of fire wider now as it was tricky to get enough oxygen before.

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It has to dry and cover if it rains.

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Day of firing. Kiln is not fully dry but good enough and I expect it to crack, especially the lid.

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Load kiln carefully with dried pieces.

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Ideally the clay has to get as hot or hotter than glowing orange which is about 900 Celsius.

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Let the kiln die out after 8 hours and cool down over night before you open and take out  The grill broke and kiln cracked but can be fixed.

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Final pieces have beautiful colour variation.

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Final pieces.

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