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TeePee Firing for Pottery and Ceramics

Images and article provided by Ceramics Monthly,

Greenware or bisque pottery is placed in a TeePee Kiln and covered with twigs and branches and then lit on fire.

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Firing like this was originally a Native American technique, but many other cultures have fired this way also. Greenware or bisque pottery is placed in a shallow pit and covered with twigs and branches and lit on fire and allowed to burn down.
Such a firing can reach temperatures of around 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Teepee firing was brought back to life and popularized in the 20th Century by an American studio potter.
Teepee firing pottery and ceramics will always be a down to earth method.
With this method, slip coated paper covers the wooden frame, allowing for a hotter burning.
It probably also slows the firing down a bit since the wooden structure of the teepee is soaked overnight and creates some reduction by reducing the airflow, which makes for richer colors on the pottery.
Some teepee firers put up to twenty layers of slip coated paper around their teepees, which a lot of the time remain standing after all the wood has burned away, because of the strength of that many layers.
If using only two or three layers, it tends to collapse gently down onto the pottery.
The number of layers of paper and slip used on the teepee depends on what the artist feels will get the best results.

Here are some very basic instructions on how you can fire in a teepee.

First of all, find a spot where smoke won't be a hazard.
Level the ground to a diameter of about three feet and place some bricks around the edge for supporting the wooden frame of the teepee.

Building a paper teepee kiln

Spread sawdust on the ground to a thickness of about three inches.
Sprinkle with salt, copper carbonate, seaweed or other materials like leaves or shredded paper that are known to give interesting effects.
It is best to bisque fire your piece of pottery first, then place a single layer of pots and sprinkle with more copper carbonate and salt.

Cover with newspaper to protect the pots from dripping slip when you are putting on the slip coated paper and adding dry kindling in a rough cone shape.

Start to build the skeleton of the tepee by putting the boards of the frame, which have been soaked overnight, in a teepee shape.

The boards of the frame are held together with wire or a metal ring. Leave a small hole on one side of the teepee for lighting, which should be about two feet above the bottom,

Getting ready to apply the slip coated paper to the cone.

Dip glossy paper into slip, covering the entire teepee except for the lighting hole and the top which will be the chimney.
Use about two to five layers of slipped paper, more if you're feeling energetic.

Appling slip to the teepee
Applying the slip and slip coated paper.

Light the kiln through the hole you have left on one side.


Fire in the hole!!

The teepee kilns will fire away.

Hey, hot time in the ole town tonight...

Burning Teepee fires

Smoldering teepees

The teepee will burn down leaving the pottery to bake in the hot ashes.
These will cool down after a few hours after which the pots can be removed!

Pottery left after the fire burns down

Here is some teepee fired pottery showing flashings from salt, copper carbonate and seaweed.


Adding grog or volcanic ash will open up the clay and make it more resistant to heat shock.

The best color results can be achieved with iron bearing or red clays.

Bisque firing the work first helps to prevent shattering and cracking.

If you're not afraid to face the music, someday you may lead the band.

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Have you ever come up with a good idea while working with your handmade pottery and thought that you would like to share it with others? You have? Well, why not send it to us and we will add it to the tips page for all to see.

Handmade pottery can be a very gratifying hobby that produces fun and satisfying results. For many people it's an enjoyable release that is created by working an inanimate mound of clay into a beautiful work of art that you made through your artistic abilities.

The best way of starting out is to take a few lessons from Youtube. You will probably waste quite a bit in materials when you first get started. Figuring out how to truly make handmade pottery correctly and shape into what you want it to be can be quite an ordeal. The different tools that a normal shop will have can be fun to try. You will soon see which ones you like to use the most and then when you are ready you will know which ones to buy.

With the help of the internet, you can now purchase most if not all of your ceramic and pottery tools and supplies online. We are located far from any well supplied dealers and yet working with reliable ceramic and pottery suppliers online has allowed us to recieve most of our orders within a timely manner.

When you get all set up, just enjoy the hobby and have fun at it. Some people get pretty serious and start selling their creations at craft fairs and small stores, but others just like to create items for themselves, relatives, and friends. Whichever kind of handmade pottery you desire to endeavor, enjoy the hobby and have fun doing it.

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