Jill Solomon

June 2015

Saggar Firing Techniques

Course Description
This course will provide a practical hands-on introduction to an important and less well known ceramic technique – saggar firing.

Saggar firing involves the placement of properly prepared clay pieces into a saggar (a closed clay container) in which the piece is surrounded by oxide colored organic materials and fired slowly to allow for smoking and fuming so as to impart a richly colored surface.

The starting point will be the making of several simple shapes including bowls, plates, vases, egg shaped stones, as well as tiles for wall assemblages (pieces should not be much larger than 8x8x8 and may also be brought from home unbisqued).

Once the pieces are dry, terra sigillata (a very fine particled clay slip) will be applied to the piece and then burnished. We will also use terra sigillata colored with stains and oxides allowing for the painting of the pieces to give a more in-depth and layered surface. The surface will be decorated using copper wire and sheeting, brass wire, masking tape, or string, and then bisque fired.

After bisqueing, pieces will be packed into the saggar, surrounded by the prepared materials such as straw, sawdust, salts, and other combustible materials that have been soaked in various oxides, and fired to cone 014.

We will work together discussing both the wire design issues as well as the coloration best suited for your pieces.

Opening the kiln is always exciting though the results are never predictable given the myriad of variables affecting this kind of firing, but they are often quite magical and this is what we will be going for!

Skill Level
All skill levels are welcome, though a familiarity with clay making techniques will be helpful.

Artist's Biography
Jill Solomon began her ceramics career at the Croydon College of Art and Design in England. Upon graduating with a degree in 3D design she was awarded membership in the Licentiateship Society of Designer Craftsmen of England.

Her work has been exhibited widely in this country, in Canada, and in England. She was awarded a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award as well as an award from the National League of American Penwomen for Crafts. She received the Mayor's Award for Outstanding Visual Art in 3D at the City of Boston Arts Festival.

Solomon's work has been shown at the American Craft Museum, the Danforth Museum, and the Fitchburg Art Museum. Her work has also been reviewed in Art New England, the Boston Globe, and Ceramics Monthly. She has been affiliated with the Ceramics Program at Harvard University for over 30 years where she taught many workshops.

Artist's Statement
My art has been shaped by a series of resonances which relate my particular life journey to some aspects of working with clay. For example, I am strongly drawn to simple forms and this is reflected in my sculptured pieces. This attraction seems to have its roots in my South African childhood, most especially in my early reverence for the simple elegance and grace of African women I was surrounded by. The vivid colors of their dress seems also to have led to my strong affinity for saggar-firing, which imparts intense color coupled with linear design.

At a later point in my life, I lived on Cape Breton Island and felt a deep connection to the land and most especially to the sea-washed stones so numerous on the shoreline there. Many of my later clay forms seem to have evolved from this fascination with stone. I am presently drawn to boat shapes, perhaps an echo of my life now in a small coastal town in New England.

Artist's Website
www.jillsolomon.com

Supply List:
* mask
* flat brushes of varying widths as well as some regular brushes
* rubber gloves and an apron – rubber is good but not essential
* designers masking tape of varying thickness
soft cotton cloths and chamois for burnishing
interesting textured fabrics and string for dipping in chemicals to provide patterns
any interesting shapes made of copper or iron
unbisqued pieces not larger than 8x8x8 inches
* Items marked with an asterisk* are available for purchase in the Shakerag store.

Reading list to familiarize yourself with the technique :
Watkins and Wandless : Alternative Kilns and Firing Techniques
Karen Hessenberg: The Complete Potter:Sawdust Firing
Sumi van Dassow : Low-firing and Burnishing
Jane Perryman: Smoke Firing: Contemporary Artists and Approaches
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