Burnished Pottery


Bob’s burnished vessels are thrown using porcelain clay. This very smooth white clay lends itself to the burnishing process. Once the pot is completely dry and before firing in a kiln the pot is polished several times with a smooth stone, this is know as burnishing. The first time the pot is burnished a coat of baby oil is rubbed onto the surface of the pot and polished; this produces a smooth slightly shiny surface. The second burnishing involves the thin application of a clay slip called terra sigillata [which is Latin for Earth Seal]. Once the terra sigillata is applied to the smooth bone dry pot it is burnished a second time with a piece of fleece. A high gloss starts to develop on the surface of the pot. This process of burnishing terra sigillata is a technique Bob worked on while in graduate school.” I was looking for an unglazed surface for my clay pieces and I became very interested in early Greek and Roman pottery of the 5th century BC. I realized that the use of a clay slip for sealing and shining the surface of pots was a common practice for many cultures such as Native American, as well as potters’ of south and central Americas, just to mention a few.” Once the pot is burnished it is bisque fired for strength. The bisque fired porcelain is very white and shiny, but still porous. Each pot is then placed in a saggar or container which is made of bricks or clay. The pot is then carefully surrounded with hard wood chips, kosher salt and clay oxides. The saggar is sealed with the pot inside and fired again to about 1900 degrees Fahrenheit. The next day the pots are unloaded from the saggar cleaned and gently buffed revealing a beautiful surface obtained from the smoke and fumes trapped in the saggar with the porous pottery. While these results vary from piece to piece some control is obtain by the way the saggar is loaded and placement of organic material surrounding the burnished pot. .

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