Sagada Pottery

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I’ve visited Sagada a few times in the past and I’m stumped that I’ve only been aware of the Sagada Pottery during this recent visit. How I found out about it is an amusing story.

I was having breakfast outside Misty Lodge, my home in Sagada for three days, when I noticed a very nice teacup moonlighting as a tissue holder on the dining table. It was very pretty that I had to stop eating to examine it. I said to myself “Mmm, this teacup is too nice to be a tissue holder, I want to buy it”. I asked Sigrid the owner if I could buy it from her because I would love to drink my tea from it. She informed me that it was from the Sagada Pottery, located in the mountains about twenty minutes away. I immediately requested her to book me a visit the following day.

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The teacup from Sagada Pottery moonlighting as a tissue holder on my dining table.

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The Sagada Pottery Training Center in Besao Rd., Sagada, Mountain Province

It had been raining all morning so it was a bit of a slippery climb to get to the Sagada Pottery Center in Besao Rd. where I was welcomed by the two resident potters, Tessie Baldo and Siegrid Bangyay. While Siegrid passionately kneaded and de-aired the clay to remove any bubbles present, Tessie proceeded to show me around while relating to me the story of how Sagada Pottery started.

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Siegrid kneads and de-airs the clay to remove the trapped bubbles ensuring an even moisture content.

Sagada Pottery Center was initiated by Archie Stapleton, an American potter and a son of missionaries from Philippine Episcopal Church assigned in Sagada back in the 1960’s. Archie was only 12 years old when the family left for the U.S. where he trained to become a potter. In 2000, he returned to Sagada and grew to love the place over the years. It was here that he trained and organized a small group of local artisans interested in learning pottery as a craft.

The clay used for these potteries are all sourced locally. When a clay source is located, they first get samples for testing at the center where it’s exposed to 2,500 F in a kiln to see if the material can stand the heat and not crack or break. If it passes the heat test, they haul more clay to the center where it’s soaked for at least a month to loosen it up. After the soaking process, the clay is sieved to achieve a high level of fineness and consistency. The clay will become watery so it is dripped-dry first, and after 20% minerals (like kaoline and silica) are mixed to 80% natural clay it is then aged for at least three weeks or until it is ready for moulding into the different shapes on the wheel.

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Clay being sieved and dripped-dry then aged before being shaped into cups, bowls, pots and plates on the wheel.
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For a fee of P100, resident potter Tessie, demonstrates how to ‘center’ and form a pitcher out of a lump of clay on the wheel. She says that the fee helps maintain the center.

The Potter’s Wheel

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The potter’s wheel is where things start to take shape when a lump of clay is placed in the center of the turntable called the wheel-head. While the Center uses an electric motor, the wheel-head can also be rotated with a stick or uses sheer foot power.

After shaping the pottery, it is then half-baked and bisque-fired in a kiln through a process called ‘bisquiting’, producing an orange or ‘unglazed pottery’. This initial firing ensures that all the moisture is removed from the pottery. The next step is called glazing where a coating of vitreous substance is applied then undergoes a second firing called ‘glaze firing’ to melt the glaze, sealing the stoneware and giving it a glassy finish.

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Pottery that went through ‘bisquiting’ ready for glazing, coloring, decorating or waterproofing.
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This is a kiln where the pottery is subjected to varying temperatures of heat to set and mature the clay and glaze.

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Finished potteries displayed for sale at the Sagada Pottery rustic store. It takes at least 2-3 months of work for these potteries to make it from clay to retail.

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Me with Sagada Pottery resident artisan potters’ Tessie & Siegrid.

If interested to visit Sagada Pottery, you can call these numbers for an appointment:

Sagada Pottery
Besao Rd, Sagada
Mountain Province
Siegrid Bangyay – 0975-0084800
Tessie Baldo – 09462575480.

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