October 20, 2017


In the life of our company we have built two, natural gas, down draft, high-fire, kilns. The first kiln we built was before I had ever even fired a kiln, and before we had actually started Mountain Arts Pottery. We were just beginning to make pottery and had obtained an order from Yellowstone National Park. I needed a kiln. I couldn't afford to buy one so we built it. This was before YouTube tutorial, so I bought "Olson's Book on Kilns" to show me how to start. I have had many people ask, when they knew that we had built our kiln, if it wasn't a difficult process -- as if this were some sort of brain surgery. Fortunately, I didn't know at the outset that it could be a tricky process. I saw it as just building a big brick oven and I figured if someone else had built one, there should not be a problem for us to build one for ourselves. We built it in the backyard of our house in downtown Bozeman and used it there for over 23 years. 

The second kiln we built was at our site on Hwy 191 where our retail store is located. I designed this one after a kiln I read about -- called the Minnesota flat top. Every person who has built a kiln will have their theory of why their kiln is the best. The Minnesota flat top gets our red glaze (which is the hardest of all the high fire glazes) to turn out front to back and top to bottom.

For health reasons, after 10 years we just got rid of all the fiber that was used in the original construction of the kiln, except what was in the roof. We recently re-bricked the sidewalls and rebuilt the door. In doing so, we discovered that a brick door is much heavier than a fiber door. It took us 4 weeks to solve all the problems of handling the extra weight! As of last week the door is working very well, the glazes are coming out as we want them to, and we are back to firing on a regular schedule. Theory has again become reality!

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