Jar by MAOM potter Clinton Berry fired in a wood fueled kiln. No glazes were applied on the exterior of the pot. The surface color and texture was created by the interaction of the ash from the wood as well as the path of the flame during the firing process.
Atmosphere, in regards to firing ceramics, has to do with the type and quality of the air in the kiln during the firing process. The chemicals, compounds, and mixtures of elements present combine with the clays, slips and glazes on the work to create colors, textures, and surface depth. Atmosphere affects the general surface of the work.
Today atmospheric firings refer to wood, soda, and salt firings that utilize both reduction and oxidation atmospheres but essentially create glaze in the kiln in a more interactive way. Different chemical elements are introduced to the kiln in process. The style and configuration of the kiln affects the possibilities of the surfaces.
Wood fired kilns deposit ash, calcium, salts and minerals from the different woods, which form their own natural ash glazes.
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Sodium vapor kilns (soda and salt firings) deposit salts and vapors which combine with the clay, glazes and slips on the pots to produce vibrant color. The color range of the two processes is very different. One aspect similar to both wood and soda is their organic nature. The work from these kilns can have a naturalness to the surface color and texture.