Barrel firing pottery is a very low temperature process. Due to how simple it is, this method or equivalent techniques have been used for thousands of years. Small bits of wood, saw dust, bark – any small combustibles are put into a barrel interspersed amongst the layers of pottery. The wood in the barrel is set alight and it smolders away eventually leaving a pile of pottery and ashes at the bottom of the barrel.
The support for the pottery in the barrel is the wood pieces which burn away and let the pot fall to the bottom of the barrel. It could be a slow process or a dramatic drop which puts the pottery at risk of breaking.
Subtle marks are made by the carbon in the smoke staining the clay. For added color, the pottery can be wrapped in aluminum foil. The foil can contain different materials such as salt, steel wool, copper, banana peels – a wide range of items. The foil keeps the fumes of these heated materials next to the pot to create some staining. For this low temperature process, no glazes are used. Preparing the pots beforehand requires repeated burnishing as the clay dries, giving a slick smooth subdued pot. The pots created are only decorative and will not hold water unless sealed inside.