top of page



St. Joseph


United States



Click to open

Main Arch




cu ft



Year Built



The Saint John's Pottery at St. John's University


Richard Bresnahan


Saint Joseph Hall, 2810 St John's Rd, Collegeville, MN 56321, USA



Residencies, Workshops, Shared/paid firings


Visits by appointment


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.

A massive noborigama (multi-chambered climbing kiln), the Johanna Kiln was designed by Richard Bresnahan and named in honor of his mentor, S. Johanna Becker, OSB. The 87-foot-long brick structure consists of a front chamber, a glaze chamber, a Tanegashima chamber with nine pairs of stoking portals, a long substerranean flue, and a chimney.

The first chamber is loaded with unglazed pieces and fired to allow for the accumulation of a natural ash glaze surfacing from the wood fuel and firing process. The fire then moves consecutively through all three chambers, or 1,600 cubic feet of interior space, making efficient use of fuel and minimizing waste heat.

The second chamber, or glaze chamber, is loaded with glazed pottery. The chamber is carefully brought up to temperature to allow for special effects such as hair's fur glaze streaking as part of the extended firing and cooling timeframe. This glaze firing technique is not otherwise obtainable in traditional gas or electric kiln firing practices.

Finally, the unique Tanegashima chamber has eighteen stoking windows in the roof of the kiln. Wood is stoked downwards into the open spaces separating ten rows of kiln shelves and clay works. This creates an environment where large amounts of wood and flame are in continuous contact with the pottery, generating unique flame patterns onto each ceramic surface.

Photo credits: Zilla Pottery and The Saint John's Pottery

Edit this entry

Is this your kiln? To edit the information in this entry, please get in touch

Add Your KILN

Fill out the submission form here


To get an update when new kilns are added, sign up here


If you'd like to contribute to the project, please reach out

bottom of page