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Sandy Jacka Ceramics Open Studio

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by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at https://www.travelwithirenke.blogspot.com
Published November 15th 2022
Sandy Jacka Ceramics
Some of Sandy's functional homewares


A potter for almost five decades, Sandy Jacka specialises in functional homewares and it was with pleasure that I attended the open studio at her home in Sydney's north to hear her story, view her pottery pieces and learn more about the process of producing them.

Sandy's journey into potting came from a local pottery class she booked and attended with her mother, whom she believed was in need of a creative outlet. However, her mother wasn't that taken by it but Sandy was hooked. Her first piece was a beer mug made with a coiling technique and decorated with a tooled texture. That was 1973 and she still has it and still uses it.

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
Sandy's first piece of excellence


She went on to do a 2-year Studio Ceramics course at Hornsby TAFE and then another 2-year course at the Northern Beaches Ceramics TAFE that focused on Surface Decoration and Design. Her fascination for pottery grew and became a lifelong passion where she continued to learn from workshops and demonstrations, whilst gaining inspiration from other potters and the techniques they used.

Her pottery pieces include bowls, plates, platter dishes, mugs, pots, vases and some sculptural items. A love of nature transcends into the colours and designs of many of her creations, making for unique products that are both beautiful and great for everyday use (with the cookware being oven, microwave and dishwasher safe).

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
Beautiful platters for celebrations


Many hours go into crafting pottery. One needs a lot of patience and Sandy describes potters as "needing to have a personality that can cope with many failures". Persistence and practice brings joy though when a piece turns out well.

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
More of Sandy's joys


There are many stages in the process between the shapeless lump of clay and the finished item. The five main types of clay used in pottery are earthenware, stoneware, porcelain, ball clay and fire clay. Sandy uses a high-fire porcelaneous stoneware for its strength and durability. A lot of kneading is needed to remove air bubbles and get the moisture spread evenly throughout the clay before it can be 'thrown' on the wheel.

The 'throwing' process on the wheel is a fine art in itself as you hand-build your clay whilst using your foot to spin the wheel at the right pace. I did a pottery class a few years back and can tell you this is one of the hardest parts of the process. There's a lot of skill required in the way you hold and move your hands around the clay to turn it into the shape you're looking for. My pieces turned out a bit wonky. Pottery certainly wasn't my forte. I praise Sandy and those who put in the hours of practice needed.

After your piece is sculpted into shape, it is left to rest to dry. The next stage is 'turning' and this involves using tools to cut away the unnecessary clay that supported the piece in the 'throwing' process.

The next steps are the firing and glazing in the kiln. The firing process turns the raw clay into ceramic through high temperature heating. Sandy completes two types of firings in her rare natural gas kiln. The first is a slow biscuit firing to 1000c that takes 12hrs, followed by a further 16hrs to cool, before opening the kiln. The result is a clay that is stronger but still porous and ready for the glaze.

Sandy Jacka
Sandy explaining to a group how her gas kiln works


Some people paint the glaze on but Sandy prefers to spray or dip her items, sometimes pouring further glazes over the first one. There's skill in mixing the colours and being able to predict how they might turn out after firing.

The glaze firings reach 1300c in 12-15hrs, which includes a 5hr reduction and often a 3hr fire down. Sandy uses her learned smells and sounds from her kiln to judge that all is set well. She also looks at the colour of the flame jutting out of the chimney during the reduction process, the purpose of which is to starve the kiln of oxygen to alter the glaze colour and quality. It is used to obtain rich earthy colours. Copper in a reduction firing is red but in a neutral firing it is green.

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
Earthy colours from starving the kiln of oxygen


Stacking the kiln is important too and Sandy does multiple pieces at a time with smaller items on the bottom shelf and larger items on the top shelf. A tight fit is the aim as this results in a more even temperature within the kiln. It's a long process from start to finish with a wait of around 30hrs after the glaze firing is complete and the kiln is opened for unloading.

Of late, Sandy has been dabbling in Peach Bloom and Copper Red glazes, something she previously only dreamt of, even after years of study. These are very delicate glazes and quite elusive. They were used in China during the Qing dynasty to decorate water pots and ink wells on the emperor's writing table, along with vases and bowls.

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
The results of Peach Bloom and Copper Red glazes

On my recent visit, another artist was sharing the limelight with Sandy in displaying her potted works. Margaret Hall is her name and she put out some interesting figurines and jewellery, in addition to mugs, a teapot and serving dishes.

Margaret Hall ceramics
Some of Margaret's work

It was lovely meeting both artists and getting to know the multi-talented Sandy (she's also a musician and a former scuba diving photographer) and her daughter, both of whom provided valuable information on all things pottery.

You can find Sandy's studio and home at 7 Hartley Close, North Turramurra. She will be open to visitors on weekends, from 10am-4pm, should you wish to purchase a special piece for your home or as a gift for someone near and dear.

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
A 'one of a kind' piece

Sandy Jacka Ceramics
These functional pots add ambience to any home


Apart from the images above, you can see more of Sandy's work on her Facebook page. Sandy also does custom orders and is contactable on 0418 662 734 or via emailing sandy.jacka@bigpond.com. If you like Margaret's pieces, she can be contacted on 0429 944 983 or by emailing margaret@loddington.com.
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*Irenke Forsyth was invited as a guest
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Your Comment
Ceramics is on my list of things to learn. What a beautiful collection Sandy has created.
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|5799) 17 days ago
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