preheating pot

  1. Ancient potters often air-dried their pots in nets to allow air to flow evenly on all sides. Drying the pots in a cool, perhaps shaded place, allowing the air to circulate on each side of the vessel allowed it to dry slowly and prevented the clay from cracking. The process will take 5 to 6 days, but the pot should be "bone dry" to prevent cracking.   Some modern potters dry their pots in the sun to complete the drying process.  Most potters will preheat their pots by setting them beside the fire to heat them before firing them.  This can be done by heating the pots in an oven over a few hours, slowly increasing the temperature to 500 degrees, then placing them quickly into the fire. 
  2. The net drying process also caused the nets to make impressions over the bottom of the pots on Etowah pottery, creating a new type called Etowah Net Impressed. The design was accidental, not purposeful.
  3. Once the vessel is dried completely, it is ready to be fired.



firing pot 7 firing ceramics10 copy


  1. There are a variety of firing techniques that can be employed in firing pottery. The firing process is essential to harden the clay into a durable and usable vessel. If the pot is fired sufficiently, the heat will melt the clay particles together and make the pot waterproof.
  2. Pots that are not completely fired will allow water to seep through the pours of the clay and evaporate. This is not necessarily bad because the seeping water will keep the stored water inside the pot cool.
  3. Modern Cherokee potters preheat their pots by placing them beside the fire before putting them directly into the fire.
  4. Once the pots are placed in the fire, many potters cover them with small strips of oak or poplar bark. This “smoking” of the pottery chemically altered the clay and turned it a dark color. Using the bark rather than the hard wood itself produced a hotter fire with less breakage.
  5. By digging a pit in which to fire the pottery, the vessels are mottled surface that is marked by the effect of the flames.  At about 1500 degrees some shrinkage will occurr.  When the pot reaches 1600 degrees it is chery red.  At 2000 degrees the pot turns orange and the alumo-silicates are fused and the pot is strengthened and the red clays are matured.
  6. While it was still hot, the Cherokee potters invert their pots over a small hole in the ground that is filled with burning corncobs or meal to “smudge” the pot. After about 30 minutes, the pot is smudged black and glistening with a sort of glaze on the inside, adding to their ability to retain water.
  7. Some pottery types were fired in an oxygen-starved atmosphere by placing one pot inside another, thus starving it of the oxygen needed to sustain an open flame. Woodstock pottery was done this way, turning the color of the pottery a dull gray.
  8. Ocmulgee Cord 1 green potThis pot is a reproduction of Ocmulgee Cord Marked.  It is in the green stage and needs to dry at least 5 days before oven drying and firing.
  9. Ocmulgee Fields Incised dried potThis is an Ocmulgee Fields Incised pot that is completely dried and is ready for pre-heating and firing.
  10. Ocmulgee Fields Incised V fired potThis is another Ocmulgee Fields Incised pot using the V design.  It has been fired using a Teepee type fire as shown below.
  11. GEDC0055 A layer of thumb-sized sticks is laid side-by-side with large logs around the sides and ends of the fire area.  Ideally the logs are about the same size as the pot in diameter.
  12. GEDC0056 A teepee of sticks is built over the pot, which has been covered with dried cow manure or wood chips or sawdust.  The cow manure works well as it burns slowly and at an even temperature.  If you don't live on a farm with cows, don't worry.  Cow manure is available at your local garden store for about $3 per bag.  It took about 1/3 of a bag to cover this pot.  I like to cover the teepee of sticks with some larger thumb-size sticks and a layer of pine straw and pine cones.  The idea is that there will be enough fule to burn the fire without adding additional wood.
  13. GEDC0057 Let the fire burn down to ash and burn out, then let it sit for several hours if not overnight.  Removing the ash too soon may cause it to cool too quickly and the pot may crack.  Once the pot has cooled it is ready for use and can be set in the fire for cooking.