Salt Firing

I finally got the chance to reacquaint myself a little with the Salt Firing process – after 30+ years. Salt glaze pottery is stoneware with a glaze of glossy, translucent and slightly orange-peel-like texture which is formed by throwing common salt into the kiln during the higher temperature part of the firing process. Sodium from the salt reacts with silica in the clay body to form a glassy coating of sodium silicate. (Source: yes, Wikipedia because it was a concise-enough description to any non-potters :-).

I was mentored by Boulder artist Carl Stewart who was gracious enough to get a few of my pieces in one of his firings. Here’s an iPhone video of Carl doing one of the stages of salt introduction to the kiln. I’m on the brick plug, and was lucky enough to switch places so I could play with the fire too.

I planned these three pieces as mostly unglazed except for the tops and collars, and I was depending on the salt to surprise me when we opened the kiln. Of course, I wasn’t disappointed – but I’m a re-noob, so I’m an easy audience.

The clay body was mostly white recycled from one of my buckets of scrap, but it had some brown in it, so I thought the porcelain slip would still stand out from it. I’m pretty pleased with the subtlety of the porcelain against the salt.

I re-learned so much, and because of this session, I’ve currently got some other forms in my sketchbook that I plan for future salt firings. The waiting is the hardest part!


Altered Bottle. Wheel-thrown, paddled sides, twig impressions with porcelain slip brush accents. Tenmoku glaze on collar. Salt on body.


Bottle with porcelain slip neck and drips. Celadon over neck, salt on body.


Altered Flower Vase. Wheel thrown, compressed and altered. Twig impressions with porcelain slip brush work. Tenmoku glaze on lip and inside. Salt on body.

2 thoughts on “Salt Firing

  1. Hey Karl – Thanks for the video! I’ve never done any salt firing – looks fun! And you got great results. I especially like the bottle with the porcelain slip neck.

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