Way back when those crazy folks in Stoke-on-Trent (that would be like the Wedgewood people) were using oil, wood and coal to fire kilns, they needed to use a container into which they would place the ware to protect it from various nasties, including particles from the fuel and smokes which could fall on the pottery and make them unsaleable.
"A SAGGAR is a fireclay container, usually oval or round, used to protect pottery from marking by flames and smoke during firing in a bottle oven.
The SAGGAR MAKER, is a skilled man, producing the finished saggar, using his thumb to make a near join between the side and the base."
"Wiktionary defines the Saggar Maker's Bottom Knocker as:
BOTTOM KNOCKER (a young boy) made the base
While there are folks who still find the need to use saggars in a more-or-less traditional way, the way LickinFlames uses saggars is a bit different.
First...we don't use the saggar to keep things off of the piece of pottery...we use the saggar to keep things up against the piece. We don't want to exclusive, but rather inclusive.
We use several types of saggar techniques in the work here in the studio. We use what is called a "soft saggar" where the piece is wrapped in wet clay and then placed, still wet, into a covered container filled with "stuff." We use containers into which is place a single pot or several little pieces...and again, the container is filled with "stuff." Our primary technique is to use tin foil to wrap a piece of our work which has been previous coated with more of that "stuff."
What normally gets wrapped up in nice shiny tin foil comes out as a pile of rubble. The kiln is fire to the mid-1300 F and tin foil melts at 1218 F...something has to give and it's always the tin foil. Of course, what was wrapped needs to be unwrapped...one by one...and then washed, dried and a coat of fixative added.
What is "stuff" you ask? In addition to the normal ceramic oxides (cobalt, copper and iron), we use ferric chloride, copper sulfate, sodium chloride, sugar, copper and steel wools, ferns, oak leaves, along with hairs and fibers from a wide variety of critters such as horse, mule, alpaca, and bison. We use saw dust, pine needles and wood chips as the binders for the stuff in some saggars. In the case of the foil wrapped pieces, the "stuff" is added onto and the piece wrapped directly, in the foil.
So where a normal piece of pottery would be all about molten glass-like glazes, the saggar work we do is more about the gases and the fuming that the chemicals in the "stuff" create when they get hot in the kiln.
The results of any saggar work is somewhat unpredictable. A few degrees in the kiln here and there over the coarse of minutes and the results could be completely different than planned and expected. I've come to enjoy the results. Unloading, opening and unwrapping the little saggars of tin foil from the still warm kiln is like opening presents.
We decorate in small batches, loading the saggars in a more-or-less similar fashion for each batch. However, , the look of the batch is never “batch specific” but usually, two piece sitting next to each other in the kiln will look a different...sometimes is a little different and sometimes it a lot different.. Where a piece is place in the kiln can have a profound influence on the outcome of the piece. It’s the basis for those “licking flames” being the beginning of LickinFlames.
Questions? You can always email Jim and ask him for some additional clarification.
The “fine print”…
All of the finished work from LickinFlames is safe to use as decorative items but none is suitable for use with food or drink. The work is free of lead and other heavy metals, however, finished saggar, raku and obvara work is inherently more delicate than more common ceramic products. Yarnbowls are durable for the intended use but dropping them onto the floor could cause them to break. The work should not be handled in a rough manner. Garments that these buttons are attached too should be washed by hand or dry cleaned. Explain the delicate nature of the buttons (like a bone or a shell button) and we’re sure your cleaner will understand.