Raku Process

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Raku is the process of firing pottery using the ancient Japanese method. This method dates back to the 16th century. “Raku” means enjoyment in Japan. The name Raku is also the name given to the family that discovered the firing process we call Raku. The Raku family is now in it’s 15th generation of carrying on the firing tradition. It is deemed to be a zen-like process practiced by the Buddhist monks in tea ceremonies. Raku pottery should be hand-made, as the artist and clay should become one. The artist leaving it’s impression on the clay is very important. It is essential to the process to combine air, water, and earth.


The Firing Process

Firing Raku can be dangerous, yet very exciting. Each piece of pottery fired will be unique and one of a kind. Nature plays a huge role in determining how a piece looks. First, the pottery is bisque fired. The bisque fired piece is then glazed and put in a gas kiln. When the kiln reaches around 1800 degrees, the piece is quickly removed. This is where the Western process differs from the American process.

Traditionally, the piece is pulled from the heat molten hot and oxidizes. The cool air hits the hot pottery and changes the colors of the “ware”. The American process adds a second “post firing reduction”. The pot is quickly removed from the hot kiln and put in a metal chamber that contains combustibles such as newspaper or sawdust. A fire starts and the lid is placed on top of the chamber extinguishing the flames. This is when the reduction process begins. All of the oxygen is starved from the chamber and absorbed in the clay. The piece will stay in the chamber for a few minutes to hours, depending on the artist. The piece is then sprayed with water, stopping the reduction process. Where there is no glaze, the ware turns black.

Certain glazes can create particular colors but the placement of the colors is unknown. Due to the change in elements predicting a color, one never knows how a piece will turn out. It is very common for pieces to break or crack due to the harsh shock absorbed by the clay. This makes each piece special and valuable… “No attachments” is not only part of the zen process, but a good way to relate to the firing process.

 

Enjoy my wares!

Tracy Gurdian