Thinking about starting up a Pottery Adventure… let’s learn how!

After digging up a ridiculous amount of clay from the back flower bed in my new house, I started wondering how the old Native Americans processed the dirt into clay and formed them into pots.  I have a degree in Anthropology from Arizona State University.  In one of my classes, we learned that the Hohokam (Indigenous people living in the Phoenix area about 1000 years ago) got the clay for their pots right there in the area.  But we never learned the actual technique that they used to do this.  So.  Now I wanna know!

I found this awesome website with a tutorial about how to separate the dirt, rocks and sand from the clay.  There is a great step-by-step at Practical Primitive – Processing Clay using Water Extraction

Raw Soil
Ready to extract the clay from this raw dirt – photo from

And THEN – I learned that once you isolate the clay, you have to add the temper back in to make it more durable.  I know that we studied about that in school.. they used Mica in the desert…but… I thought that it was just to make it pretty.  🙂  So, here is our friend the Practical Primitive showing us How to Add Temper to Clay

Place each tempered disk atop the last
How to add temper to your clay – photo from

This is a great tutorial, because he shows you how to figure out the right amount of temper to put into your clay to make the strongest, most durable pottery.

And just in case you DO want to put some pretty mica in there as temper… check out this site where you can purchase the mica.

Mica Powder
Glittery mica powder – various sizes for a variety of uses – photo from


Now…. I really don’t want to invest hundreds of dollars in a kiln.  At least not until I decide if this is something that I can really get into or if it’s just a passing fancy.  So… I googled how to make your own kiln!  Fun stuff!  Here are a few links I found.

Here is one for a Raku Kiln out of a barrel!  There is an embedded Youtube video that shows how it’s done, plus there are written instructions.  It from a homeschooling website, so it should be pretty do-able, right?  Here is their video:

This other guy is doing a trash can kiln and a brick kiln – he charges for his plans, but I am guessing they are going to be more detailed and you could probably ask him questions if you bought the plans.

Brick Kiln
DIY Brick Kiln – photo from


That’s about it for now… until I have time to do some more research or do some actual projects.  I’d love to hear from anybody else doing the DIY with pottery… tips and tricks are greatly appreciated!




  1. Hey hey! We also started with some backyard pottery 🙂 Want to make ollas for my vegetable garden! Our first set made yesterday cracked during drying – going to troubleshoot and try again! Please let me know how your pottery is going and the results! Good Luck!

    The Shroom


    • That is awesome! have you tried putting a different amount of temper in there? One of my links sends you to a site that tells you how to figure out how much temper to put into your clay. Too much or too little and you get cracks and breakage. Good luck! I haven’t even STARTED with mine yet. 😛


      • Thanks! Yes I read up on the tempering process as well. We were making some funnels using cardboard as a mould and we thought it would give way during the clay-drying but didn’t and cracked the clay. The first ones we made without the moulds haven’t cracked, so we are likely gonna fire them and see whether our clay structure holds true. Exiting stuff! Let me know of your progress then – Tata! 🙂


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