Soda kiln creations baked in ‘raging flames’

Otago Potters Group committee member Mary Schollum displays two of her soda-fired pieces at the...
Otago Potters Group committee member Mary Schollum displays two of her soda-fired pieces at the organisation’s summer market yesterday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Firing pottery in the raging flames of a diesel-powered kiln is less common than other methods, but a Dunedin potter says it creates the best results.

Otago Potters Group committee member Mary Schollum said the pieces made in the club’s soda kiln were her favourite among those for sale at the group’s summer market yesterday.

It was quite different from the usual methods of gas or electric firing, she said.

The whole inside of the kiln was "raging flames" as it was heated, then sodium was added.

"Soda is sprayed in and that forms the glaze - and then the kiln is taken up to 1300°C, and then we switch everything off and wait three days for it to cool down."

To her knowledge the club was the only one in the South with a soda-firing kiln.

Pottery made by other methods was also for sale, and the range included domestic items such as bowls as well as sculptural pieces.

The creations of about 20 group members were for sale, and the market also gave people the chance to see the Neville St clubrooms.

It followed last week’s annual exhibition - the 60th held by the club, which was founded in 1962 and had held a show every year except 2021.

Interest in pottery seemed to have boomed, and the event had a good turnout, she said.

People liked the individuality of something handmade, and pottery made a good present.

Club numbers had also jumped this year from about 70 to more than 100.

The activity was a good way of slowing down and clearing your mind, she said.

"Working with clay, you can’t think about anything other than the clay.

"I think creating anything is really good for your brain; it’s good for your stress levels and those sorts of things.

It also required a relaxed attitude and lots of practice and experimentation.

"You should never, ever get too attached to a piece of work, because there’s also a lot of failures along the way.

"Some things can’t come out amazing and other things, you open the kiln and you’re like, ‘oh’."

She had been potting since 2015, and this year had been an especially good one - she and fellow club member Elise Johnston were recently selected as finalists in the national Portage Ceramic Awards.