Cookware from clay could be found in many cultures in the past. Some of them have kept these objects until today, while in our culture they have almost disappeared. We are fascinated by the simplicity of these objects and how intuitive and readable they are. They have accumulated data of functionality, meaning and intelligence over centuries. Nowadays we are often confronted with objects whose cultural and industrial origins we do not know and they do not reveal.
We aim to publish our findings and approach once returned to Berlin. This book should tell the story of the original pots as well as our interpretations, translations and impressions. We hope to discover many more things than the making itself through the process. We want to converge to the surrounding, the action and the people.

The book is meant to be an autonomous element which addresses interested readers from different spheres. We are everything but interested to make a book that is valuable only to our families and people who do similar research. Thus the concept is to have diverse content such as results of the research, chapters on tradition, culture, recipes, instructions and portraits. Similar to the journal of a discoverer some centuries ago, it will be a collection of curiosities that does not have the claim to be complete, but all the more sensible to a just and detailed representation of our encounters.


The images show the little no-budget fanzine that resulted from FIRE KTCHEN in Vienna, 2016. It collects recipes, pots and patterns for their reproduction as well as a little introduction on the project and the applied techniques.


Cooking in clay
The project FireKitchen came back to Brazil for a research trip and a participatory experimentation process on invitation by Goethe na Vila, a residency program by Goethe Institut SP. It took place inside the temporary cultural center Vila Itororó in São Paulo – the place of origin of the project: about three years ago during the first workshop at this place, I asked one participant, Reni from Bahia if he could cook the traditional Brazilian recipe ‘Moqueca de Peixe’ with us, which i love and used to prepare for many years. He decidedly refused to cook it, wich i understood only when he came back the next week with a large, black ‚panela de barro‘ (clay pot) and fish caught by his father who is a fisherman at the sea. These handmade and low burned clay pots are traditionally used for cooking fish dishes in the costal areas of Brazil.
This little story demonstrates one of the basic assumptions of FireKitchen: a good moqueca cannot be prepared without the right pot!
We are interested in understanding the relationship between the object and the recipe used to prepare a specific dish as well as the people involved in the preparation and the cultural environment providing the ingredients. FireKitchen tries to investigate these topics by an applied research and experimentation process.

Panela de Barro
The research trip through the central costal area of Brazil brought us to the APG (Associação das Paneleiras de Goiabeiras in Vitória, Espirito Santo), the known traditional manufacturing place of the „panela” in barro negro technique. Apart from other strong, beautiful and extreme impressions the country, its diversity of nature, people and cultures gave us, one of the most significant discoveries was the simplicity in which barro negro pots are produced and their strong local footage.
The clay is dug in the middle of a tropical mango forest inside a natural park. A nearby mediterranean mangrove forest is delivering the tannin necessary for blackening the pots. Both are connected to the association hall by a small brackwater river, crossed by simple long wooden boats. About 20 women are producing their panelas here independently, sharing inventory for production. Few tools are used for shaping the panelas, such as a piece of coconut shell for shaping and a river stone for polishing. At the fire place on the other side of the street the necessary temperature of 800°C for burning the sundried panelas is reached in short time through the continuous firing of discarded wood. When they reach this temperature, the panelas are picked with long sticks and sealed with the tannin liquid. This treatment evokes a chemical process inside the clay and gives them the typical black surface suitable for cooking.

Vila Itororó
Back in São Paulo, the experimental workshop took place at the temporary cultural center „canteiro aberto“ of Vila Itororó in the neighborhood of Bixiga. The history of the quarter is strongly influenced by togetherness and coexistence of different cultural backgrounds. Therefore a diversity of people with different knowledge, age, skills and interests were invited to take part.
The workshop was organized around 4 topics structuring the collective creation of a functioning kitchen: Drinking, Cooking, Stove and Shelter.
After extracting possible functions from traditional appliances and looking at the material logic of low burned clay, a collective goal was developed for each topic:
A recombinable system for serving, cooling and filtering water as well as preparing coffee or tee was developed.
Different cooking devices reinterpreted the specific characteristics of cooking in traditional clay pots such as the Moroccan Tajine which creates a steam atmosphere during the cooking process.
The pots were complemented each with a stove for cooking on wood fire after discussing various aspects like sustainability, efficiency, health, tradition etc.
Additionally, a simple narrow roof was constructed and covered with clay tiles, quoting the iconic roof portal as a symbolic invitation to guests.
During a 2 day process, all pieces were kilned in several different fire burnings on the basis of traditional techniques: a paper oven, a bucket oven, a pit fire, reduction burning etc.
Finally all participants and friends came back activating the commonly built kitchen, cooking, sharing and exchanging experiences and recipes during a 3-day feast.

Objects and Processes
Through a phenomenological research and related experimentation as a methodology, we are able to experience an exemplary production process from raw material to a usable kitchen:
from digging the clay, shaping of a complementary set of functional objects, burning them in wood fire with different techniques in order to obtain varying surfaces and material qualities, to finally testing them in the actual context. As this process is rather low complex, it can be repeated and understood without extensive knowledge or access. The sensual and archaic moments of putting the hands into the mud and setting a pit on fire are able to free the access to spontaneous acting, implicit knowledge and personal intuition.
The fireplace constitutes the center of communication, exchange and cultural production by its capacity of processing food and other materials.

Vernacular Intelligence
Different types of clay pots can be found in all cultures around the world, well distinguished in their construction, function and use following to local appearances of materials and ingredients. This contextual sensibility results in sophisticated shapes refined for the preparation of ecologically reasonable and often well balanced recipes. Observing, understanding and learning from this vernacular intelligence, we are able to profit from an existing multitude of elaborate objects. Those can still be found in several places where a unique knowledge of production is passed on from generation to generation. In the uniform canon of industrially shaped product culture, we often loose this diversity as a reasonable connection to meaning and origins of dishes and utilities. Its specifically those qualities that we are interested in and want to foster and share through our work.

FireKitchen Brazil
15. 9. – 15. 10. 2017
Goethe na Vila, Vila Itororó, São Paulo
Goethe Institut SP

11a Bienal de Arquitectura São Paulo
Biblioteca Mario de Andrade, R. da Consolação, 94, São Paulo
opening: november 4th 2017

Project Team: Johanna Dehio (Founder & Initiator), Mascha Fehse, David Moritz and Sophia Ramos
Participants and Friends: André Cherri, Claudia Medeiros, Dani Bedroll, Daniele Castro, Edivaldo, Eduardo Paiva, Fernanda Machado, Gabriel Zei, Guilherme Uyekita, Isadora Dalle Molle, Isadora Falcao, João Camillo Machado de Campos, Julio, Kiki Iizuka, Lina Amato, Luís Felipe Abbud, Mariana de Araujo Alves da Silva, Mariana Negrão Lorencato, Marina Klautau, Mario Cassettari, Melita Junqueira, Miki Hayashi, Norin Hafer, Rodrigo Lyra, Rodrigo Mergulhao, Rosemary Regusino, Sandra Tami, Sueli Castro, Tamiris Nascimento, Vanessa Dassoler.


FIRE KITCHEN was guest at constructlabs the Arch in Genk in June 2017.

The aim during this Residency stay was on the one hand to develop an easily repeatable workflow for producing simple personal objects, a cup, a plate and a bowl, for the Arch kitchen and ongoing workshops. You can find the manual here.
On the other hand, large cooking objects for the Arch Kitchen were developed and built, such as a Stove, Tajine, Comal, a natural refrigerator, several jugs and large bowls etc.


FIRE KITCHEN Vienna took place in cooperation with the Austrian Caritas group Kompa and invited refugees from different countries (Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iran) and neighbours to participate in a 10 day action in an enchanted backyard garden in the center of Vienna: starting from a selected recipe a cooking pot and a table stove were designed and built from clay. Throughout the first days, several cooking pots, steamers, tajines, open baking pans and closed ovens, coffee and tea pots and jugs were created.

After drying, the vessels were burned in simple wood fire ovens made from metal bins: at a low temperature of 800∞ the pots become dense enough to be used for cooking though staying porous enough for resisting the extreme temperature difference while cooking on open fire and at the same time being able to absorbe water to be dispensed during gentle cooking or evaporate on the exterior for cooling. In a second reduction burning the vessels could be finished with a matte black surface through oxygen exclusion making them hydrophobic and thus better for cooking.

Most cultures used to cook in clay pots on open fire and many beautiful examples and knowledge, which accumulated over a long time can still be found in South America, North and South Africa, Asia, the Middle East etc today. As European citizens we are relatively distant from this culture. We are used to cook in pots and containers whose cultural and material origins we donít know. For visitors and participants, fire-kitchen wanted to make possible to experience the exemplary process from the raw material clay through manufacturing, processing and burning to the communal cooking and dinner feast.

As designers and initiators of the project fire-kitchen we prefer to have a role in which we can learn from each other. Regarding the topic of cooking, we are used to serve ourselves at other cultures without going in depth into any personal exchange. A booklet is giving explanations about basic knowledge of materials and processes, presenting a selection of traditional pots and recipes from all over the world and proposing patterns for the building of some simple objects.

The original idea for fire-kitchen came up on a trip to Brazil, asking Reni from Bahia to cook the traditional Moqueca de Peixe with us (delicious dish from fish, vegetables, coconut milk, palm oil, lime and coriander). He first refused cooking it and arrived a couple of days later with a large, round, black pot made from clay arranging and delicately cooking the fish in it.
The fascination and curiosity for cooking in clay was born.

The setting was made representing only the necessary working steps: pieces of textile are used first for rolling and working the clay and finally to cover the festive dinner table; the seasonal ingredients come from the nearby social garden Gin; the archaic fire is attracting neighbours and visitors from far into the dark abandoned yard for the communal, festive, exciting and particular evening.


The Fire-Kitchen Vienna took place in the framework of the Vienna Design Week 2016 Stadtarbeit Format.
It received the MehrWERT-Designpreis 2016 for social design of Erste Bank Austria.

Team: Johanna Dehio, Mascha Fehse, Valentina Karga, Liza Schluder, Sèbastien Tripod