I attended a raku workshop yesterday – it was fabulous! Unfortunately, I only learned about it Wednesday night, so I had no time to prepare my own piece. But the girls had prepared a few extra bowls – thanks!
I have always been fascinating by raku fired pottery: organic beauty, unpredictability, stunning colors…
Here is how it works:
A gas-fired kiln is heated to 800-900 degr. Celcius. The temperature needs to be monitored, since it cannot be predicted when it will reach the right temperature. The first kiln took 2 1/2 hours to reach 820 degr. C. Then things need to move fast: the pieces are quickly removed from the kiln and put aside to cool down a bit. This is aided by blowing on the pieces. They are then lowered into a metal bucket filled with paper. The paper ignites and there needs to be a good flame going before the bucket is closed. Smoke develops, and as the paper burns, the carbon created stains the part of the pottery that is not covered in glaze. The glaze itself cracks, and the cracks also take on the carbon staining. From time to time the lids are lifted to see if the flame is still going strong.
Periodically, the ‘crackling status’ is being checked. If the potter is not yet happy with it, the piece is returned to the fire bucket. Once s/he is happy with it, the piece is taken out to cool down a bit. All the white unglazed parts will have turned a deep black, and the glazing colors have not yet taken on their final hue. The final step in raku firing is the plunge into a water bucket. You can hear fine hissing and crackling sounds as glaze and clay make their final transformation. Now all that needs to be done is use some elbow grease to remove grime and ash deposits, and the raku pottery is finished! What amazing results have been achieved! As you can see, even some of the artists are surprised and delighted how their pieces turned out!