The Clay Oven
A clay oven is a dome-shaped structure constructed from clay and straw for baking food. Modern clay ovens tend to be used mostly for the baking of pizzas and bread, but thousands of years ago, they would've been used for the cooking of almost anything.
The traditional wood-fired clay ovens are made from raw natural ingredients like straw and leem: a combination of sand and clay. This material is perfect for use in an oven as it is environmentally friendly, fire-resistant, easy to shape, and non-toxic. The front-loading system that we use is also highly beneficial as the structure holds in heat more efficiently than ovens with open tops.
In the ‘Build a Wood-fired Clay Oven’ workshop, in August 2015, a small group of eager participants joined forces in the Mediamatic ETEN greenhouse and constructed a clay oven from the ground up. The group also learned about the techniques and history of this traditional method of building and cooking.
In two days a complete oven was constructed from scratch, using clay as the raw material. On the first day, the oven brick floor and sand mold were put together, followed by the masoning of the clay dome and fire-resistant arc. On the second day, the dome was completed first so that the sand mold could be removed and an insulation layer with stucco could be added. Once the oven was complete, the workshop participants learned how to fire up the oven and bake both pizza and bread in it.
Christo Markham has a history of baking and building and so it was only a matter of time before he turned his talents to 'natural' building. After leaving America, he traveled to Mexico, Europe and Northern Africa, before finally settling in The Netherlands.
He has been baking his own bread for several years and it was his desire to learn more about bread that led him to build an earthen oven. He was inspired by 'natural' builders and earthen building traditions from around the world, and now believes in building sustainable objects with natural materials. He has been a member of the Natural Building Network since 2006.
Pizzas by Kamiel
Kamiel Rongen is a sound- and video artist by day and a pizza chef by night. He creates vegan pizza toppings and fires them for one minute in the 450-degree clay oven. The difference in taste has to be tried to be believed!
The Wood-fired Clay Oven at Mediamatic Eten.
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