Category Archives: saggar

Saggar firing prep

I finished prep work for the saggar firing this weekend. I wrapped these at home Wednesday night. They’re experimental test pieces, so I hope some useful information come from them.

Then last night I wrapped the rest where we’ll be doing the actual firing on Saturday. Some are unburnished, some are only burnished, some have terra sig. I really don’t know what I’ll get, but I’m hoping for some interesting surfaces I can develop further.

For some reason I’m craving a baked potato….

Photo montage

So this weekend I finally got around to taking pictures of my past and present work so you can see what the heck I’m talking about. I’m also going to backpost some of these into my previous posts for future newcomers.

Naked raku

These are from my one and only attempt at this. It was in a class at the art center and there wasn’t much leeway for experimentation. I like the overall effect, and I can see the potential there, but I’d like to try some different masking slips to see if I can get a larger crackle pattern.

Saggar firing

These are more recent, using the tin-foil saggar method described in Alternative Kilns and Firing Techniques. Great book, full of ideas. It covers raku, sagger, pit and barrel firing, with dozens of variations.

Works awaiting the flames….

These are a few of the pieces I have waiting to be saggar fired next Saturday. The orange is the first attempted application of red terra sig. The shinier ones have had white t.s. applied and been polished. This is the last look at them before they’re wrapped in aluminum foil in a cocoon of plant materials and metal salts.

First attempts with terra sig

Short for ‘terra sigillata‘ the Romans used it to cover their pots. It’s a clay slip made of only the finest clay particles. Brushed on in several thin coats, it almost shines itself. It’s very cool stuff!

For my first attempt, I just used some old dried out white stoneware clay scrap I had. Searching around on the internet and the clayart archives, I’d found several recipes, the most definitive being Vince Pitelka’s procedure. Not having all the equipment and chemicals needed, and just wanting to do a rough first draft, I found this article on Ceramic Arts Daily by Joan Carcia.
(Ceramic Arts Daily is a nice site, and free to join)

Being a rough test, I found I had about 2lbs of dried clay, so I used about a gallon of water, and a tablespoon ful of TSP that I found at the local building/home store.

After settling and siphoning, I poured it into a biqued bowl I hadn’t gotten around to glazing yet to evaporate/absorb some of the water off. (Tip: soak the bisqe in some water first to get the pores of the clay ‘siphoning’ quicker)

I’m finding the white sig is working very well. Outstanding actually, for the sloppy way I followed the directions. I now have a larger batch made with red clay scraps settling, and will need evaporating. I just tried using some I siponed of the top yesterday and it’s just too thin. I rubs right off when I try and polish it.

This time around, I was looking for the quick and dirty way, since I wanted to try it on some pots headed to a saggar firing in a couple weeks and I had to get them bisqued. My next attempts will be following Vince’s process, and I can’t wait to have some super sig to experiment with!

Saggar firing

Saggar firing is the most recent technique I’ve tried. The term comes from clay containers that the ancient Asian potters would put their pots in to protect them from the wood ash in the giant wood fired kilns they used.

While clay saggars are still used, their purpose is now often transposed. Many potters now use them to trap ash, smoke and other fumes with the pot inside, in order to concentrate the effect on the surface.

The particular method we used was actually wrapping the pots in aluminum foil, after placing sawdust, bits of steel wool and copper pot scrubbie and more inside. After tightly closing the foil, they’re tumble stacked in the kiln and fired.

After firing and cooling the pots are unwrapped, washed and scrubbed clean. Again, if the original ware was burnished, they can be waxed and polished.

For more posts about saggar firing, click on the SAGGAR tag below.