Saggar Fired Pottery

For the last year I have been experimenting with firing inside a saggar inside my electric kiln.  From the start I have to say anything fired in this method I wouldn’t sell as food safe and to make certain of that I don’t make functional ware with this method, just things that are purely sculptural, albeit quite small sculptures.

So what’s a saggar and what does it do?

A saggar is a sacrificial pot that was originally used in industry to keep ceramic glaze free from ash during the firings, especially with coal as this can make the wares quite dirty.  Unlike industry I use my saggars in reverse, I fill them with combustible materials and the pottery so then I can get different affects as the ash combines with the glaze or the ceramic body itself.

This makes a reduction inside the saggar chamber itself which strips oxygen from the clay body which makes the clay itself change colour.  This sort of atmosphere is damaging to the electric elements in an electric kiln and the saggar protects the kiln from damage

Pictures of the process:

a saggar loaded with pottery

The kiln is loaded with shells in between the layers so then the pottery doesn’t stick to each other in the firing.

seaweed and mare's tail in the saggar

Seaweed and mare’s tail are local to where I live and are very high in silica which means they leave deposits of their own form on the pieces, I don’t tend to just bung it all on top it is more carefully places.

pots in a saggar with everything burnt away

The mares tail is so high in silica some of it remains throughout the firing, but it easily washes away when I clean up the pottery after the firing

pottery stacked to show how few pieces fit in a saggar.

The sagger is a really inefficient way of firing pottery, you can’t really fit much in.

Finished Work

tiles with shell marks left on them

the shells leave a ghosting affect both from their own decomposition and because they leave small oxidised areas where the pottery is protected from the ash and reduction

pottery jar made to look like a rock

I cut my thumb in MAy and couldn’t throw for weeks so made some of these lidded rocks out of solid lumps of clay, these all turned out so different to the thrown work.

saggar fired wonky pot showing oranges, reds and whites

a wonly pot fired in the saggar brings out so many different surfaces and colours

a little wonky pot on a cyclinder

Recently I made some mini wonky pots and pout them on plinths that comes from the bins at my day job, so I trimmed them into circles and stuck them together before sanding and polishing them, they make interesting little bases

budvase on a plinth

I like using some different clays sometimes for example this clay is ES5 which is low in iron so doesn’t take on an much iron flashing in the saggar.

side profile of a budvase

You can see the striations that the mare’s tail left in the glaze, they just help give antooher texture to the potttery.

About Joseph Travis

Maker of ceramic objects, Ceramic Researcher and full time dad to two boys
This entry was posted in experimental firing, Saggar. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *