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Sagada - Besao Rd, Sagada, Mountain Province
There are three types of pottery, earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. Earthenware is fired at a low temperature. It is usually reddish brown in color, and it is porous: water will sink into it. Clay flowerpots are an example of earthenware.
Stoneware is fired twice. The first firing, called a bisque firing, produces earthenware. Pieces are then coated with a glaze mixture and fired again at a higher temperature. This high temperature melts the glaze to form a glossy coating and vitrifies the clay, turning it into stone. Stoneware is non-porous and is much more durable than earthenware.
Porcelain is similar to earthenware but made with a very fine grade of clay, allowing light to pass through thin pieces.
Stoneware can be made at different temperatures. High-fired stoneware is fired at temperatures up to 1300 degrees Centigrade. At these temperatures the glaze bonds fully with the clay body into a single stone-like mass, increasing durability and resistance to water.
A glaze is a mixture of chemicals and minerals that is mixed with water to form a slurry. This is applied to the pots after the first firing, by dipping or painting. The pot is then fired again at a higher temperature to fully melt the glaze and bond it to the clay body. The bottom of a pot is never glazed because the glaze would melt and fuse the pot to the kiln shelf.
Glazes can be made from many materials. Many of my glazes are made from mineral-rich soils found around Sagada or from substances like wood ash. I also use commercial glazes to achieve colors that are not possible with local materials.
Pottery is full of surprises. The same glaze on a similar piece can yield very different results in different firings. The way the kiln is stacked can affect air movement within the kiln, changing the response of the glaze. The outside temperature and humidity can also affect results. Because I gather most of my own glaze materials, mineral concentrations may not be identical from one firing to the next. Even I am not 100% sure what I’ll see when I open the kiln after a glaze firing!
The process of firing is very delicate. If the pieces heat too fast or cool too fast they will crack. Tiny flaws in the clay can also cause damage while firing. All potters experience some breakage, warping glaze drips, and other flaws. They can be painful, especially when pieces or lost, but it’s part of the craft.
Yes, stoneware is oven safe. Ovens heat all parts of the piece evenly, avoiding breakage. Your pottery has already been cooked for 16 hours at temperatures up to 1300 degrees Centigrade, your oven won’t hurt it! If your piece has bamboo or rattan work, do not put it in an oven.
Stoneware itself is microwave-safe. If your piece has bamboo or rattan work, do not microwave it
Do not place stoneware on an open flame or heating element. The part of the piece closest to the heat will heat faster than the rest of the piece, and breakage may result.
Stoneware is durable but not indestructible. If you drop it on a hard surface it will break. Be careful when washing pieces, especially those with small or delicate handles.
The firing process bonds the clay and the glaze into a single mass, locking all materials inside. There is one exception. Many years ago some potters added lead to glazes to achieve lower melting temperatures and brighter colors. This is a dangerous practice, as lead could leach into liquids that are left in the pot for some time. We do not add lead to any materials, and the glaze additives we use are lead-free.
Mass-produced molded ceramic items are very cheap. Hand-crafted stoneware can be quite expensive. Identifying clay and glaze deposits, digging them, hauling them, and processing them takes time and highly skilled labor. Forming, trimming, and decorating pots requires years of experience. Pots have to be dried, fired, glazed, and fired again. The entire process takes months and many hours of labor, and the price reflects that.
Yes, I provide instruction in all stages of the pottery process. I can teach you the basics of forming a pot in ha;f a day. You should be aware, though, that if you wish to make finished pieces you will either have to stay in Sagada for some time or make multiple trips. A basic pottery experience can last for a few hours or even a few minutes. If you want to actually learn to produce stoneware on your own you will have to commit substantial time and effort. Feel free to contact me with details.
Yes, I accept commissions, subject to some constraints. It is not always possible to exactly predict the color or details of a finished piece, and the production process can take from six weeks to two months. If you have questions please feel free to contact me directly.
Yes, but it is quite expensive. If you have a specific piece in mind contact me for details on shipping options.