Johanna Kiln

Three-Chambered Wood-Burning Kiln

Designed by Richard Bresnahan and constructed with the help of apprentices and volunteers, the Johanna Kiln can fire up to 12,000 works of pottery and sculpture. It is named in honor of S. Johanna Becker, OSB and is the largest wood-burning kiln of its kind in North America. The kiln takes at least six weeks to load and is typically fired in the fall.

Once the kiln doors are closed, the lighting ceremony begins. Hundreds of individuals from the Saint John’s community–monks, laypersons, and guests–gather to take part in the lighting ceremony. After a short prayer, the kiln area is ritually purified in the Japanese tradition with rice, salt, and sake. The Johanna Kiln is then lit with a handmade torch.

For ten consecutive days, sixty volunteers gather to stoke pieces of wood in several firing shifts that stretch around the clock. Upon completion of the firing, the kiln is sealed with recycled clay to slowly cool for two weeks. Finally, when the kiln is opened, the ceramics are carefully unloaded, cleaned, and prepared for everyday use.