Monday, August 20, 2007

Throwing Again

Tonight was my last night in an eight week pottery class I've been taking. And since after about six weeks I couldn't imagine not going to pottery class on Monday nights, I already signed up for the next session. Its been four years since I've been at a wheel, and I didn't realize how much I missed it. I really enjoy it. Really really enjoy it, more than any other thing I've studied or learned or tried. The whole process just makes me happy.

This past session, the focus was on Raku firing. Raku is a form of Japanese pottery in which you fire a glazed piece and then remove it from the kiln while its still glowing hot. Using the original Japanese technique, you'd take the piece out of the kiln and put it directly into water. We used the 'Western Technique', the main difference being that you put the glowing hot piece of pottery into some kind of combustible material to create a 'reduction chamber' around it. Its a lot to explain with words so I'll just show pictures.

First. Put your glazed stuff in the kiln and fire it up. Raku firings are usually around 1450 to 1800 degrees Farenheit.

After about an hour (by comparison, stoneware firings usually last about 16 hours), open up the kiln, but don't look at it! The first picture was taken only a few seconds before the second.

Take stuff out, put it in a pile of sawdust. Wait a few seconds for the sawdust to ignite, and then sprinkle more sawdust on top.

Then cover it all up with the 'Reduction Chamber' (trash can) and wait for about 10 minutes. Then put all the pottery into buckets of water. After a few minutes, you can pick them up and see what you have.

The glazes themselves are special Raku glazes. Originally, lead-based glazes were used. Today thats not the case, but because of other reasons, Raku fired pieces are not food safe. A good thing to know when choosing which pieces to fire. The glazes are a lot of fun, and usually (but not always) do one of two things: be metallic or be crackly. They are always (not usually) a surprise.

Some crackly (surprise! pink!):

Some metallic (surprise! blue!):

The surprise:

I don't know what happened on the left side of that bowl. Its a surprise. Maybe there was too much oxygen, I don't know. One of the Rules of Raku is to never fire something you love because if it survives the thermal shock and isn't dropped, who knows what the glaze will end up looking like.

Oh, I also made a little votive holder. Its a metallic surprise glaze, but when in use, you can't see it anyway.

And in addition to all this fun Raku stuff, I also brought home a big batch of regular stoneware tonight. But I'm pretty sure I'm over my length and picture limit, so I'll save it for another time.


Emmalyzalee said...

Oh, how fun! I used to love throwing pots, and taking classes in the winter in WI helped me survive the cold! Your post has inspired me to seek out a class again. I'd love to try the Raku firing technique too-- such fun with all the surprises. :)

monnie halberg said...

I remember doing Raku in ceramics class in high school. The colors that come from that particular process are gorgeous.
Glad you're enjoying your class!
Someone should buy you a kiln for Christmas!

sheila said...

Good luck finding a class!

And, why yes! I'd love a kiln for Christmas! Especially since I already have a wheel. However, they are at least $500, so I'll be buying 'kiln time' for the time being.

michael said...


Maighie said...

I love the votive holder! You do great work Sheila, thank you for sharing it!

monnie halberg said...

Yes, I know those kilns cost a pretty penny. Although, I was expecting more than $500...I suppose there's a range of models.

Barry John Scott said...

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Barry John Scott