I hope this post finds you well, happy and in eager anticipation of whatever winter holiday you might celebrate! A few people have asked me about the raku process that is used to fire my pottery and vases and I have decided to show you and write about how I create raku pottery.
The process starts with creating a piece on the wheel (or by hand-building). I love the process of making things on the wheel and find there is a certain zen feeling that washes over me.
After a pot is thrown or handbuilt, it must dry to prevent explosions in the kiln when it is bisque fired. After the piece has had time to dry it is bisque fired. This makes for more stable handling of the piece when glazing and makes it easier for the piece to withstand the rigors of raku.
Once the bisque firing is done, the magic of raku begins! Pottery pieces are cleaned and glazed and prepared for their final firing and the flames of raku.
The components of the glaze are one of the main variables that help determine the effects you get from a raku firing! Glaze can be brushed on a pottery piece, or a piece can be dipped into glaze.
Once the glaze has completely dried, it is ready to go in the kiln. We use an electric kiln for our raku firings. There are specialized raku kilns you can buy, but they cost a small fortune!
Once the kiln is loaded, it is heated to the determined temperature for the raku firing. This is another variable that helps determine the effect of the glaze.
Reduction bins are prepared with organic material which also has an impact on the finish of the raku pottery.
Once the kiln has reached temperature, the real adventure begins! Safety googles and gloves are put on, and the raku tongs are at the ready.
If you are attempting this at home, please note this is not a comprehensive guide, and there are real safety issues to be considered, depending on your set up.
As you can see from the video, red hot pots are transferred from the kiln into the reduction material with metal tongs. Note that prior to this, the kiln is shut off (no shocking experiences for me of the tongs touching any of the metal coils within the kiln!)
I sometimes add additional reduction material. Once all pots are placed in the reduction bin, a lid is added. We also use upside-down pots. The goal is to create a ‘reduction’ environment where there is no oxygen. This happens if you have sealed your bin well, as the organic material burns off the oxygen in the container.
Once the raku pottery is removed from the reduction bin, it can still be quite hot. It is placed in water to help cool the piece. During the reduction process pottery pieces often get covered in soot and must be scrubbed. Pieces are also placed back in the kiln after being cleaned to help set the colours.
This is how we make our raku pottery! Do you think the raku effects are worth the extra effort? Which is your favourite effect below? You can see more raku effects by clicking here.