The Potter’s Kiln

Unbricking a kiln after a firing is like a person (1) uncovering buried treasure. As the potter takes bricks away (2) to create an opening into the oven, an expanding view of gleaming shapes rewards (3) the artist for months of hard work.

The process of creating ceramics begins in a studio. My friend Ellen is typical of many more (4) potters in that some pieces she shapes on a spinning potter’s wheel and others she builds on a work table from coils or slabs of clay. Over many weeks, as time goes by (5), her collection slowly grows: clay bowls, cups, vases, and sculptures fill the studio. She dries them on racks, dips them
in glazes, and dries them again.

At last, Ellen will have enough pieces for a firing. She then carries the assortment outside to the wood-fired kiln, it is a brick structure (6) designed to bake pottery to a hardness and transform glazes to glorious colors that drying alone won’t achieve. (7)‘  The chamber is just big enough for her to crouch in as she carefully arranges (8) the pieces inside. When the objects are in place, she backs out gingerly and seals the chamber shut with bricks. The next morning, using twigs, for kindling (9) she starts a small blaze in the firebox, located directly below the main chamber. The fire grows steadily throughout the day as she feeds it lumber scraps and then logs. By nightfall a controlled inferno roars (10) in the kiln.

Occasionally (11), the fire chugs like a train engine, hungry for more oxygen. Each time the fire is stoked, sparks shoot from the chimney into (12)  the night sky. Periodically, Ellen looks through a porthole in the wall of the kiln to determine the fire’s intensity. The clay pieces gleam white-hot amid the flames. At last, when the temperature soars out of sight (13), she knows the firing is nearing its end. Having died (14) down, she bricks up the firebox as well, sealing the remaining heat inside. In a few days, when the kiln has cooled, Ellen opens the chamber, revealing the results of her labor and of the fire’s (15) magic. Each piece shines as it meets the light of day.


  • G. the brick structure is

  • H. a brick structure

  • J. brick