Raku 2012: First Firing

Today was the day of the first Raku firings in preparation for the BIG day tomorrow. Though some of us had already done Raku before, the newcomers had their first glimpse on this technique.

Raku as a technique has its origins in Japan. It is essentially a procedure of glazing and firing ceramic pots. The amazing changes a pot goes through on these firings and the speed of the all process makes it a spectacular procedure with unexpected results. With Raku we try to embrace the "happy accident" moment, the moment our finger mark was left on the pot or the glaze produced a colour completely different from that we were expecting.

The usual ceramic firing takes many hours so that the kiln reaches the desired temperature and then it also needs a long time to cool down until we can put our hands on the fired pots. With Raku it is very different: the kiln is lit and one hour later, at 1000ÂșC, the pots are removed. This produces a drastic thermal chock and glazes start to crackle...

As soon as the pots were out of the kiln, we put them into sawdust and newspaper, where the reduction process occurred. The smoke produced when these things burn goes into the crackled glaze and onto all the unglazed clay, making those areas go black.

When removed from the saw dust bins and sand pits, after a little wash, the first colourful results started to show. Bright blues or greens and coppery reds, carbon black bodies and intricate crazed whites and pinks...

The results are always a surprise to everyone! No matter how much effort we put into planning what colour we think will look better in the end or on other expectations on changes in the glaze, the final result is a mix of satisfaction and acceptance of the new outcomes. And of course, there is a lot of cleaning and scrubbing afterwords...

Photos by Abigail Uhteg