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Pit and Saggar Fired Smokeware
by Artist Carol Ratliff
Saggar means clay container. Originally, it was used to protect the ware from the falling debris in a wood fire. Today, in contemporary ceramics it is used to trap the smoke and fumes, and fired inside a gas or electric kiln. Pieces are placed in the saggar on a bed of saw dust with leaves and or seaweed held close with clay shards.
Pit Firing is done as the name implies... in a pit. This is the first known method for firing clay pieces. Ceramic Wares are placed into a fire pit and a wood fire is carefully built around and on top. Other burnables are added to create a blush of color, leaf imprints, or seaweed marking from the firing. Indian Blackware is achieved by smothering the fire with cow dung.
The clay body at a low temperature firing remains very porous. Beautiful smoke patterns and a variety of colors can be achieved producing one of a kind artworks, without a glaze. The pieces are sometimes sealed to bring out the subtle colors, but still remain porous and are not recommended for functional use, other than with dried flowers, with a plastic insert for fresh flowers, or as a wall hanging. Dry storage is fine.