Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Saggar Fired Pendants

We loaded most of the kiln at school last night and when I got home, I just couldn't stay awake long enough to finish this post. My leaf panels and some pinch pots with experimental glazes are in this glaze load. So stay tuned for results maybe sometime next week or the week after, depending upon when they finish loading the rest of their pieces and then fire. I am especially anxious to see how my leaf panels do in the firing since they have a large footprint on the kiln shelf. Will they warp? Will the underglazes and glazes I used turn out? Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

My saggar fired pendants have some good colors, but there were also some with no color. I've taken these photos are after I cleaned the pendants, but I haven't coated the outside with anything. Once I coat them they will be even more beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised at the pendants made with half white clay and half terracotta clay. The first pendant above is one of those which shows nice color and contrast between the light and dark clay. The face pendant is made of the same terracotta clay which takes on a beautiful black sheen. The sheen doesn't show up very well in the photo unfortunately. I would love to make a smooth bowl with this terracotta clay and barrel fire it to see the results.

Here's the line up of the pendants, one through nine from left to right. I won't bore you with all the details. Saggar number two was aluminum and just copper carbonate, but saggar number eight was aluminum with copper carbonate and yellow iron oxide and there was very little color. Saggar number five didn't get any color, but I used cobalt and black iron oxide - no sense wasting any cobalt on firings.

Suffice it to say it doesn't seem to make a difference if I fire in a copper saggar or an aluminum foil sagger, the results are sporadic. The fire does what it wants. The one ingredient which consistently produces color is red iron oxide, either alone of combined with fertilizer, copper carbonate, banana peels, etc. I also don't think the fire got hot enough with this firing. Next time I plan on firing with a mixture of straw and sawdust and I'm not going to use the grate and see what happens. I think the grate allows a lot of air under the burning pieces and they don't get lasting heat and they cool down too quickly.

The aluminum saggars were completely burnt, but look at the copper saggar, it got some beautiful color. I wonder if I can incorporate this into a ceramic mixed media sculpture. I don't know much about metals, but I probably could get these same colors by flaming the copper roof flashing with a torch. I'll bet Cindy of Artmaking in the North could tell me all about this since she makes beautiful metal sculptures and knows all about working with metal. Each experiment leads me to more ideas about working with clay.

Well I'm headed outside to check my vegetable bins. Something has been eating my newly planted red leaf lettuce, butter crunch lettuce, and spinach. Could it be a raccoon? I heard one last night making that chirping and cooing noise, perhaps thanking me for such a nice meal. Here's a pink rose photo for today.


  1. ooo, its like they are ANCIENT treasures!

  2. Love the expression on the face pendant.

    What a kind thought - that the raiding raccoons were nice enough to thank you.

    I love copper. When you hit copper with a torch, the colors are spectacular. I once made my living as a jeweler and metalsmith and so wished that copper jewelry was more salable because it is so malleable and colorful. I think it is beautiful even as it tarnishes. If only it didn't turn your skin green.

  3. You've quickly become a pro at this barrel firing. I really like your attention to detail; I'm learning lots from you! Incredible results! Now, we just need to have a barrel firing party with you traveling here to Charlotte, or us coming there!

  4. Hi Gary, thanks, I like to think of myself communing with the ancients when I do a barrel firing. I'll feel even more like that if and when I get around to trying my pit firing.

    Hi Barbara, I made that face pendant in a bead class I took in LA over a year ago and it came from a mold, but I think the barrel firing enhanced the expression. That wasn't my first thought about the raccoons, but they did sound happy in the distance, like they were talking as they casually ambled their way to the dinner table. Can the copper be treated or coated with something to keep the skin from turning green? I love the earthy color of hammered copper and the torched colors.

    Hi Amy, thanks so much, but I think barrel firing is just luck of the draw. I can't afford the fuel or air fare, so you and all of your classmates and instructors are all invited here anytime you like. With house sales the way they are going I doubt if I will be going anywhere for a very long time. But if I do sell I plan on visiting a lot of blogging buddies and you are definitely on my list.

  5. I have a friend who used dog food to sagger fire and came out with the most beautiful colors from all the minerals added to the food- I like that face too-

  6. wow, who knew they would look Soooo Cool?

  7. Hi Meredith, thanks, I tried cat food in the first firing, but it seemed to turn the piece completely black. See the bowl in the upper right with the black inside - that had cat food in it. Maybe dog food is different. It really is great fun barrel firing though; it goes so quickly, so instint results compared to the wait for a Cone 10 kiln to cool down.

    Hi Mary, thanks, I think the fire definitely does something to the look of the pieces, perhaps that's why native American work is so beautiful. I really want to try a terracotta pinch bowl next time to see what it does.

  8. These turned out really good - what a great experiment. So, knowing nothing about barrel firing, what would you "coat" these with?


I love suggestions, questions, critiques, thanks for your comment