We use 2 different clays at the wee mud hut! Air drying clay contains fibres to strengthen it and therefore doesn’t need fired in an oven. This is used for hand building only. This means you can make something, take it home and in 3-4 days once it has dried naturally, you can paint it! Poster paints, acrylics, watercolours whatever!
Our other clay is earthenware clay. This can be used for hand building and on the potter’s wheel. This clay will not dry completely by itself and therefore needs fired in a kiln.
The process involves firstly letting it dry out for several days, slowly….then it goes in the kiln for a biscuit firing. This will fire over 10-12 hours gradually to around 1000 degrees!
Then it has to cool for around 6-8 hours gradually too. If you were to rush in and open the kiln, not only would you probably get hurt but all of the work you spent hours making and drying and decorating would crack, burst, explode with thermal shock!!
This process vitrifies the clay-it removes ALL water from it so now it is permanently ceramic. It doesn’t however make it waterproof. If this is required then a second firing is needed once your item has been glazed. This kiln goes to even higher temperatures 1200-1300 degrees for around 12 hrs. Therefore using earthenware clay is a much more expensive activity.