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Saggar Firing - Paul Wandless

Saggar Firing - Paul Wandless

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Published by Stefan Van Cleemput
It’s a Wrap
Saggar Firing

with Aluminum Foil
by Paul Wandless

S

aggar firing is an alternative firing process with several variations on how the technique can be used. The word “saggar” is thought to have come from the word “safeguard” due to its use as a protective casing. Traditional saggars were reusable refractory containers that would protect ceramic ware from the smoke, fumes or flying ash of wood or coal kilns. The opposite is true today since we want all the carbon and fumes inside th
It’s a Wrap
Saggar Firing

with Aluminum Foil
by Paul Wandless

S

aggar firing is an alternative firing process with several variations on how the technique can be used. The word “saggar” is thought to have come from the word “safeguard” due to its use as a protective casing. Traditional saggars were reusable refractory containers that would protect ceramic ware from the smoke, fumes or flying ash of wood or coal kilns. The opposite is true today since we want all the carbon and fumes inside th

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Published by: Stefan Van Cleemput on Sep 14, 2012
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PotteryMaking Illustrated
  
 July/August 2007
15
 
It’s a Wrap
Saggar Firing with Aluminum Foil
by Paul Wandless
S
aggar ring is an alternative ring process withseveral variations on how the technique can beused. The word “saggar” is thought to havecome rom the word “saeguard” due to its useas a protective casing. Traditional saggars were reus-able reractory containers that would protect ceramicware rom the smoke, umes or fying ash o wood orcoal kilns. The opposite is true today since we want allthe carbon and umes inside the container!Think o a saggar as a container that creates andholds a mini-atmosphere surrounding your piece. Thisatmosphere is comprised o burning combustible mate-rials that ume and smoke the clay surace during thering process. One common kind o saggar is a clayor metal container that allows or about 4–6 inches o space around your clay work. The space around theclay work is lled with all the combustible organicmaterials, oxides, salt, soda ash and other chemicalsthat you want to create your colors. The atmosphere o smoke and umes stay inside the saggar and carbonize,fash and blush the surace o your piece. This type o saggar can be red in a gas, electric or raku kiln. De-pending on what you put in the saggar to make color,this kind o saggar ring works at any temperature, soyou can go to cone 10 i you like and get good results.Some saggar containers (especially those used betweencone 01 or cone 10) have small holes in the walls tohelp it vent a little and also to prevent pressure rombuilding up inside and blowing the lid o.
 Aluminum Foil Saggars
Aluminum oil saggar ring is a dierent approachthat’s meant to work exclusively at lower temperatures.You can get results as low as 1500ºF up to around1850ºF. The ring is perormed in a pit, barrel or rakukiln and relies mostly on local reduction and the um-ing o chemicals to get visual results. In place o ametal or clay container, heavy-duty aluminum oil isused to create the saggar that surrounds the clay work.Wrapped around the piece, heavy-duty aluminum oilholds all the combustible materials in place against thesurace to ume and fash. I like to think o this process
 
16
 
PotteryMaking Illustrated
  
 July/August 2007
as the “baked potato” approach to ring. Just like allthe seasonings are held in place by the oil to soak intoa potato when you bake it, all your combustibles areheld in place to “season” your clay.
What to Expect
As with any alternative ring process, getting suc-cessul results on the rst try can be elusive and un-predictable. Preparing your pieces properly to take ulladvantage o the uming materials in the saggar atmo-sphere is the best way to achieve good results. Anotherimportant actor or alternative ring is having realisticexpectations o achievable results. Every ring tech-nique has certain parameters or what can be achievedvisually on the surace. Many o the colors are subtleand it oten takes more than one ring to achieve thevisual eects you want.
Preparing Your Work 
For this saggar ring technique, you’ll need bisque-ware, brushes and underglazes, and a clear low-reliner glaze (gure 1). The color o the clay and the tem-perature you bisque re at strongly infuence suraceeects. Porcelain, white or light-colored clay bodies al-low the creation o more subtle colors on the surace,while a sot bisque (cone 010–06) keeps the clay bodyporous enough or umes to better penetrate the sur-ace. Bisque your clay body at dierent temperatures(e.g., cone 010, 08, 06) to see which porosity worksbest. I you preer deeper values and richer blacks, usedarker clay bodies and suraces. Another option is to
Sources of Color
Foil saggars produce strong contrasts between darksand lights, with blushes and flashes of color from apalette of earth-tone hues. The temperature reachedinside the kiln and length of firing also greatly affectsthe color results. The strongest colors appear fromlocal reduction, which is where direct contact is madebetween the surface and the materials. Here are a fewexamples of materials to use, but not a complete list.Experiment with other oxides, carbonates and com-bustible materials that fume to see what else you cancreate on the surfaces of your work. The temperaturethe kiln reaches and how long you fire also affect yourresults. Keep good notes of every firing.Oxides, salt and soda ash washes yield fairly strongcolors depending on the strength of the mixed solu-tion. Fuming in the gaps between the surface and foilcreates more subtle flashes of colors.Copper carbonate gives flashings of deep red tomaroon and shades of pink.Copper wire can result in the same colors but, whenin contact with the surface, often just leaves behindblack lines.Miracle-Gro®, which contains copper sulphate, alsoproduces the same hues and colors as copper carbon-ate, but it’s a stronger chemical to work with. If itcomes in direct contact with the surface or too much isused, it can leave a crusty, dark green or black surface.Salt/salt washes, baking soda, soda ash/soda ashwashes and seaweeds introduce sodium and giveflashes of pale yellow and ochre. Sodium washes workvery well when brushed or sprayed on the surface.
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PotteryMaking Illustrated
  
 July/August 2007
17
Wrapping cheese cloth soaked in the washes aroundthe pot also results in stronger effects.Red iron oxide gives flashes of earth tones frompeach to rustLiquid ferric chloride will give a range of earth tonecolors that includes rusty oranges, browns, and evenbrick reds if used at full strength. These colors can bevery overpowering due to the strength of this chemi-cal and visually overwhelm all of your other materialsin the saggar. When diluted 50/50 with water the huesare lighter and lean toward peach and tan.
burnish your work while still green to give it a smoothsatin surace ater it’s bisque red. You can apply terrasigillata beore burnishing or simply polish the clay sur-ace itsel.In these examples, all work was made using a cone 7,bu stoneware bisque-red to cone 04. I you don’t usea white clay body, brush a thin coat o white slip on thebisque to assure a light surace (gure 2).For variety, use commercial white and other light-colored underglazes (I use Amaco Velvet Underglazes)on the surace and mask o areas with painters tape tomake designs (gure 3). Even simple stripes add varietyand make all the dierence on a nished piece. Some-times I just use the colored underglazes to paint therims and get some drips down the body (gures 4 and5). I use a cone 04 white glaze on the inside o all thepots and drip the white glaze on the outside o them aswell. Once all underglaze and glaze is applied, rere thework to cone 04 (gure 6).
Preparation
Gather the materials you’ll need or your saggar (g-ure 7). The aluminum oil
must be
heavy duty. For thisring, I used course and ne sea salt, red iron oxide,liquid erric chloride and Miracle-Gro. I do everythingoutdoors next to the kiln and immediately load and reas soon as the saggars are done.Choose a pot and tear o three lengths o aluminumoil. Each sheet o oil should be long enough to wrapcompletely around the pot. Crinkle up all o the oiland lay them down on your work surace (gure 8).
Recipe
White Slip
Cone 04
Custer Feldspar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15EPK Kaolin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40Ball Clay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30Silica. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15100
5678
CAUTION:
Copper sulphate is a very powerful chemicaland should only be handled while wearingprotective latex or rubber gloves.Ferric chloride is a very powerful copper etchantand should only be handled while wearingprotective gloves and a respirator for vapors.

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