top of page


Tools and stamps

Clay makes my days

Clays from pits in Saxony and Thuringia are pivotal to my ceramic work. I prepare my own clay body, a process which is as physically demanding as it is satisfying. A potpourri of additives will animate the surface of the pieces when fired. I throw the majority of my pots and spend many weeks at the wheel to fill my kiln, which is several cubic metres in size. Some of the pieces are afterwards also altered in shape, assembled, and/or decorated with modelling tools, stamps, stars, shells, or sometimes even watch springs. For tiles or rectangular vessels I use slabs cut off the hump and then moulded 0r hand-built from segments. The next step, drying the pots, is something that must not be rushed. On the contrary, I often have to slow down the process in a controlled way using newspaper or foil as a cover, and I also need to keep checking and turning the pieces until they are air-dry throughout. Then they can be decorated. I use white and coloured slip and either pour it to cover large areas or paint with it. In a final step I apply ornaments and patterns using the coloured slip and/or cobalt oxide with brushes or stamps.

The pieces are now ready and lined up for the kiln. They already fuel new ideas for decoration, surfaces or shapes. At the same time, I am matter-of-factly taking stock. What is missing from my range of crockery, domestic ware and garden pots? What has been in demand or is currently particularly popular with my customers?


A heart of fire

I have built a 3.5-cubic metre wood-burning kiln in a big separate room right in the centre of my house. For the time of the firing the kiln room becomes the heart of all activity. Preparations start with two days of cleaning kiln shelves and stilts. The damper may have been damaged or even worn by salt and smoke and needs to be checked, cleaned and replaced if necessary. The chimney's small fireplace will be briefly lit before the firing to warm up the 9 metre chimney for proper draught. The ash pits of both fireboxes are cleaned out, the firewood must be stacked indoors and all the pieces that have been bisque-fired at 980° C beforehand have to be carried into the kiln room.


Packing the kiln takes another two days if two of us work together. It requires precision, a tape measure and a spirit level, and it is the big moment for non-stick wads. We use about 10 kilograms of these small clay balls for packing one kiln. In combination with a separating agent wadding prevents the pieces from sticking to one another or to the shelves. Once the kiln door has been sealed with a layer of high-heat hard fire bricks, coated with clay, and then another layer of lightweight refractory bricks, the firing can begin.

Under normal circumstances there is a raft of activities punctuating my daily life as a potteress. From participating in markets and exhibitions, networking and paperwork, to looking after my lovely garden, two indispensable cats, meeting friends and going about my daily routine, everything comes to a halt when the firing begins: The kiln requires all our attention, and our success depends completely on keeping the fire burning.


We start by slowly raising the temperature to approximately 120° C and keeping it there for several hours. After this so-called soaking, the actual firing begins until we reach 1350 to 1400° C. In general, the kiln takes 19 to 22 hours to reach temperature with an average consumption of 6 to 9 cubic metres of pinewood per firing. Salting, which is carried out through the openings of the two fireboxes, concludes the process and creates the typical transparent glaze. Afterwards, the fireboxes are sealed with clay as airtight as possible.

My kiln takes about one week to cool down. I know I need to be patient, just wait and see, and resume work in the workshop. But this is also a time for new ideas, for having a rest and getting back into a normal daily rhythm.


Opening the kiln is a step-by-step operation. Carefully we remove the fire bricks one after another. Better not to rush it although, in actual fact, I can't wait to have a look inside. At 180° C – but only when I urgently need pieces for a market next day – better still if a little cooler, we unpack the kiln. It's about four hours of work for two people. And it's anybody's guess what the chamber will release. The odds range from being over the moon to – under certain circumstances – feeling down in the dumps. So far, however, my kiln has worked like a magic box and I'm infinitely grateful for this.


We then take a closer look at all the pieces and many a time marvel at some results. Over the next 2 to 3 days, three of us are busy with carefully sanding down sharp edges or tips on the bases and/or other parts of the pieces and examining them thoroughly. Ready for sale, they have to be priced, sorted and packed into boxes for upcoming markets. This is the best time to select pieces I want to have photographed for the press, applications for markets or my website.


Always the same old process but it's never the same old same old

Every pot is different and, time and again, I observe "accidents" on some of the new pieces with wonder and delight. Effects that go with ash deposits or flashing, some warping due to the high firing temperature, slightly cloudy patches, tiny crystals, soft contoured melt-outs from oxides or drips from the kiln's ceiling. These little miracles encourage and inspire me to carry on once the fire of the latest kiln has burnt down.

And likewise invigorating, reassuring and supportive is life before the "next" kiln is due, when I meet my dear colleagues, travel to markets – sometimes long hauls through Europe –, exchange ideas and suggestions with my customers, receive orders that challenge me to try my hand at new pieces or reinvent successful "old" ones. It's all part of my ceramic path, a creative songline I follow with profound joy as well as prudent enthusiasm, yet daringly and always full of new plans.

bottom of page