Ceramics

The art of earth and fire

Chicken Brick and Fatima: the manufacturing secrets of two icons

In 45 years of existence, the chicken brick has become an icon of delicious and healthy cuisine, and of handmade and timeless design. The secret of its longevity? Not only does it deliver perfectly cooked meals, its authentic and always modern look hasn’t changed since 1971, when it was first introduced in our catalog. 

This year, the chicken brick is joined by another line of terracotta pieces: the Fatima handmade dishware line with its graphic patterns, is also about to become a classic. 

 

What else do they have in common? Both are handcrafted in Portugal, in the village of Perdreiras in the heart of the city of Leira, renowned throughout the country for its fine white and light clay, and their many pottery workshops that the village hosts since 1886.

Raw material

Practiced since prehistoric times, the "art of fire" or the art of making ceramics, was born from the transformation (under the action of firing at a temperature ranging from 600 to over 1300 degrees) of the universal material that gave it its name: clay, “keramos” in Greek, meaning "potter's clay." It covers four main families: terracotta, earthenware, stoneware and porcelain; that distinguish themselves by the implementation of the clay, its firing and the choice of coating that makes them waterproof. 

Made of silica, alumina and water, clay, when pure, is white.

 

Depending on its environment, clay can also naturally contain other materials that give it different colors such as gray, red or ochre.

 

The Leiria region known for its quarries

Pressing

After extracting the very fine raw material from the quarries of Portugal, the production of terracotta objects follows a very manual process, taking place in several steps. First, the raw material is kneaded and then dried and purified. It is then liquefied before being pressed into molds which give it an identical shape and calibration.

 

In the case of the chicken brick, when the product is still "fresh", we manually affix a stamp to engrave the Habitat logo.

Drying and firing

Gently laid down on a treadmill, the product is then sent to dry for 12 hours. When the brick is dry, it is then cleaned with a knife in order to remove excess material. Then it is sent again to dry for another twelve hours before it is cleaned again thoroughly with water, this time to remove the last residue. Once perfectly clean, the product dries for (another) twelve hours in the open air and is then baked in an oven for about eight hours at a temperature of about 800 degrees. After this final step , the brick is finally ready to go in your oven.

The Leiria region

The Leiria region

known for its quarries

A factory in the wilderness

A factory in the wilderness

Different kinds of clays are collect

Different kinds of clays are collect

Raw material

Raw material

Raw material

Raw material

Raw material

Raw material

Clay is purified and polished

Clay is purified and polished

We’re making rolls out of clay

We’re making rolls out of clay

Rolls are cut in a few pieces

Rolls are cut in a few pieces

The molding reference : positive #1

The molding reference : positive #1

Here is the one-of-a-kind brick mold

Here is the one-of-a-kind brick mold

this is the " negative " produced according to the master copy

Before pressing

Before pressing

The brick is pressed down!

The brick is pressed down!

And stamped with the Habitat logo

And stamped with the Habitat logo

And voilà !

And voilà !

The brick is released

The brick is released

for an initial dry

12h later...

12h later...

The brick is leveled with a knife

The brick is leveled with a knife

Ready to be cleaned

Ready to be cleaned

Cleaned with water

Cleaned with water

The clay can finally be fired

The clay can finally be fired

Finishing touches : paint

Finishing touches : paint

And then fired a second time

And then fired a second time

Let’s admire the view !

Let’s admire the view !

Another specialty from the region...

Another specialty from the region...

Citrus fruit!

Citrus fruit!

Many thanks to the workers and the team of Val do Sol for their warm welcome