the clay / kraut connection

People often ask me about fermentation and how I became a passionate fermenter. After giving it some thought, I came up with a few ways that fermentation & ceramics intersect - both historically and in my own life. Recently, I presented this venn diagram of sorts at a maker mini-conference. I outlined four ways that these two disciplines & passions of mine overlap:

To explain, both ceramics & fermentation are

(1) transformative. Clay uses mainly heat & fermentation microbes & time, but both transform materials into something unique, interesting & delicious! And interestingly, both have been associated with alchemy at different points in history b/c we didn't understand the transformation itself. Both are also

(2) political, as both have a certain DIY ethos where one is creating something themselves. When you are fermenting in your kitchen, you are not relying on manufactured, irradiated, pasteurized dead food. This has deep political consequences [read more about that here]. Making sauerkraut in your kitchen & pots in a studio are both

(3) tactile. They involve being in touch with materials and - in fact - feeling them. I love massaging cabbage before packing it into one of my handcrafted fermenation crocks! And lastly, both fermentation & ceramics come from

(4) deep cultural traditions. Pottery was one of the original crafts that humans worked out and fermentation is the original preservation technique. Who knows, maybe it was potters that were looking for an application for their vessels and thus developed fermentation. Or maybe fermenters were looking for something to contain their ferments and thus ceramics was born. Likely, they evolved together over millenia....


 

I also have a theory that when my great grandparents came over from Lithuania more than a century ago, they were asked their name. Instead, they heard, ‘who do you worship?’ And that’s how my surname, Ogusky, was created – a loose translation of the Lithuanian god of pickled food, Roguszys. And I also like to think that this is why I am so addicted to all pickled and fermented food, and why I am so passionate about creating the perfect clay pickling crock!

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