Outdoor pottery is a great way to add character to your landscape design and choosing to make your own is a creative and enjoyable craft that starts with a kiln.
After forming your clay into its desired shape, you'll need to fire it in a kiln in order to turn it into a durable piece of pottery. Electric kilns offer a variety of benefits today including price, safety, dependability and control of the heat you apply to your product.
Before firing up the kiln, it is important to make sure that your clay has completely dried and is at room temperature. If you touch the clay and it is still cold or damp then it is not ready and needs to be left for more time. Firing a piece of clay that is not completely dry could damage the final piece of pottery.
Electric kilns are handy because many of them come with a temperature gauge allowing the user to fire at a specific heat. If your kiln does not have a gauge then you can use cones to help determine how hot your kiln is on the inside.
A pottery cone is a small object made up of melting agents which tell the potter how hot the kiln has become. Cones come in a variety of levels all with different melting temperatures. When the cone begins to bend, or melt, the potter knows what temperature the kiln has reached. Different clays will need heating at different temperatures in order to reach the desired result so be sure to know how hot your kiln needs to be.
Once you've decided on a temperature use your stilts and to make a shelf roughly one inch above the floor of the kiln. This will allow the heat to circulate properly. Be very gentle when placing your clay into the kiln as it will be very delicate at this stage.
An electric kiln will allow the potter to place many pieces inside at once. Continue to use stilts and shelving to pack the kiln as thoroughly as you'd like. Keep in mind that an electric kiln uses a lot of energy so it is often useful to fire many objects at the once in order to keep your costs low.
Start your kiln on a low level of heat and gradually increase it until reaching the desired temperature for your clay. After firing be sure to "fire down" your kiln and turn it off before retrieving your finished pottery.
Firing is an art so don't be afraid to get creative with your temperatures. After the initial fire, you may want to apply a glaze and fire again to achieve a different product. The choice is yours!