process

saggar firing

The somewhat unorthadox method used to achieve Made OF Australia’s unique & unrepeatable surface finishes is a modern day evolution of the Saggar Firing method used once upon a time to “safeguard” (a word that is thought to have morphed over time into the word saggar) traditionally made glazed works & protect them from being marked by the unavoidable ash & debris present in woodfired kilns. Modern day Saggar Firing sees the opposite occuring; with organic materials deliberately trapped inside containers (saggars) with the ceramic ware for the sole purpose of making marks.

At Made OF Australia we have expanded upon this process with our signature firing method; foraging for only indigenous Australian organic waste materials & native Australian flora to make marks on the surface of our work. These ingredients are often seasonal, & their chemical compounds can change with climatic conditions & foraging areas. Just some of our favourites are:

  • Eucalyptus & Casuarina leaves & fronds
  • Blackbutt, Tallow, & Redgum bark
  • Wattle, Banksia & She-Oak flowers, berries, seeds, & foliage
  • Pandanus, Quandong & Kutjera fruit
  • Bunya & Macadamia nut, husks, & shells
  • Dugong sea grass, kelp & various seaweeds
  • Cuttlefish, seashells, calcified ocean plants & corals
  • Emu & Crocodile eggshell
  • Magpie Goose & other native bird feathers
  • Discarded skins from reptiles & arachnids
  • Scat from wombat, kangaroo, wallaby, pademelon, emu & koala

 

These earthly elements are sealed inside the saggars, together with our ceramics, & fired at temperatures nearing 1000°C. This controlled combustion & containment of organic materials transforms these ingredients from solid to gas, releasing the naturally occuring oxides & minerals found within them. When starved of oxygen & unable to escape into the atmosphere, these opportunistic vapours instead seek air from deep within the clay, permeating the surface, creating a spontaneous & unrepeatable transference of colour, pattern & texture. With thoughtful material choices & well considered placement, along with controlled atmospheric conditions inside the kiln & saggars, we can create deliberate, often striking markings on the surface of our unglazed wares, without the need for adding synthetic chemicals or commercial glazes to our process.

As you probably read on our philosopy page, we are all about recycling, reclaiming, reusing, redefining, repurposing, & reducing our impact on the planet; well demonstrated by our use of old paint tins (destined for landfill) as saggars, & especially by our innovative slow heating & cooling methods (taking breakage & wastage rates from upwards of 20% down to less than 1% by the clever use of superheated expanded minerals later reporposed for use in gardens as Biochar-Vermiculite).

While we love to reuse what others may discard, we also have a penchant for the avant-garde & contemporary, so while our work appears raw & is indeed as earthy & natural as a functional ceramic ware can be, we also engage in high-tech solutions to persistant problems. One such issue for alternative firing potters globally has been how to seal & make unglazed ceramics food safe, a problem we solved by engaging with like minded professionals in other industries & collaborating to find solutions. After being set on fire a few times, our pieces are given a jacuzzi & exfoliating back massage to apologise (i.e. scrubbed clean & sanded smooth to ensure they are free from any carbon residue & debris), then sealed with an invisible layer of quartz (or silicon dioxide – the second most abundant mineral on the planet) to ensure stain resistance & food safety. You can read more about that on the Liquid Quartz page.

For us, making your pieces this way is a more sustainable & natural approach to pottery & ceramic art that feels more in tune with Mother Nature. It allows the clay & unrefined natural ingredients we use to fuse together, resulting in work that pays homage to its humble origins. We think our pieces speak of the Earth from which they came, & tell stories of all that was destroyed to create them, so that all benefactors & contributors to the end result might never be forgotten. Essentially, our Saggar Fired ceramics are the result of combining the natural elements of Earth, Water, Air & Fire (& perhaps a little Aether) in just the right quantities, for just the right amount of time, under just the right conditions, in order to attain something transcendent from mere matter. Our process often conjures ethereal results from the basest of elements; some say it is magic, we like to think of it as pure alchemy. As you can imagine, firing this way means that each & every work of art produced by Made OF Australia is as unique & individual as the person who owns it. No two pieces are ever alike. We hope you love them as much as we enjoyed making them for you.

You can see first hand how we do it on a small scale in this single saggar kiln below, captured in a short documentary about Made OF Australia; Harnessing the Elements, by Michel Marondé.

evolution

Made OF Australia now uses a dual venturi burner, gas fired brick kiln, much larger than the one shown above. We now fire 8 saggars at a time in the aptly named “Caia the Kiln”, after the Roman Goddess of fire, the hearth, healing, & women Caia (or Gaia) Caecilia. The following videos show her being built by Anna-Marie, first on the Gold Coast (very slowly) & then again in the Goonengerry hinterland at Made OF Australia’s present Gallery & Studio space. This build was much faster, as it is the third time she’s been moved, & requires brick by brick reconstruction each time.