Ancient technology is more fascinating to me than 21st century technology. Despite spending most of my working life plugged in, there was always something missing. Maybe it’s the time spent outdoors, maybe it’s the spark of creative play ignited, maybe I just like getting mucky. Ancient technology is all of these things and more.
It’s pretty easy in many areas of the UK to find a decent bit of clay to slop in a bucket and take home to process. If you’re very lucky, you can dig and shape the clay straight away.
All you need to do now is dry and fire your pot.
Making Primitive Kilns
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I’m not going to go into the ins and outs and whys and wherefores too much. I recommend you get yourself down to the woods and try out the course. But if you did want to have a go yourself* this is a simple guide from which to start experimenting.
1. Warm the clay slowly to minimise thermal shock and breakage. Keep turning pots to maintain an even temperature.
2. Split ash logs to necessary size.
3. As clay warms, move pots to centre of fire on top of split ash logs. Begin with bottom layer of split ash for kiln wall.
4. Spread embers around the outside of the kiln and add next level of split ash wall. Keep turning pots.
5. Keep feeding embers with small shavings to maintain heat and add next level of split ash.
6. Place smaller ash sticks as a roof over the pots.
7. Build a pyramid around the kiln walls to create the oven
8. Keep feeding the fire until pots glow bright red
Leave to “cook” for about four hours or so and cool pot slowly. If you’re lucky and the fire gods are on your side it won’t go pop (or later bam), sounds you do not want to hear when firing primitive pottery.
I’ve written a bit more about my experience of Primitive Pottery.
*At your own risk. I recommend you try Guy Mallinson’s Primitive Pottery course before going it alone unless you have experience of managing an open fire.