Call for Art Support: Manufacturing Ollas for Subsurface Irrigation

ollasOllas (pronounced “oy-yahs”), are unglazed clay/terra-cotta pots with a bottle or tapered shape that are buried in the ground with the top/neck exposed above the soil surface and filled with water for sub-surface irrigation of plants.  Though they are ancient technology and potentially the most efficient irrigation mechanism known to humanity, they are extremely rare and no local manufacturer is known (only a few known in North America).  Additionally, no research has been done to establish the most efficient shape and size of the olla.

We are looking for artists in San Francisco to make ollas of varying shapes and sizes emphasizing flat bottom/narrow neck, tapered shapes of 5 to 12 liter capacity (the bulbous portion being 10-16 inches in diameter) (or more or less).

Here is what we know about olla requirements for irrigation:

  1. Ollas need to be unglazed (terra- cotta) to allow water to slowly seep through the surface of the vessel
  2. The vessel would need to be fired at “bisque temperatures”
  3. Ideally the vessel would have a porosity of 10-15%

This project could have enormous consequences for the sustainable food community in dry areas of the world, like San Francisco.  If you are interested in helping now or interested in learning more, please contact Kevin Bayuk – (415) 999-5354.