Pottery by
Nita Claise
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What is Raku?
What is Raku?  -in loose translation raku means: enjoyment, contentment, pleasure and happiness.

     Originally a Japanese seal given to a prominent family of potters (1598) who developed the technique. The term describes a lowfire form of pottery where the pots are removed from the kiln as soon as the glaze has melted and then left to cool or doused with water.  Bernard Leach the famous British potter through his studies of Ogata Kenzan's disciples is attributed to bring the technique to America. Ogata Kenzan (1661-1742 AD) was a potter, a painter, and a poet and Tea Master.  Bernard Leach studied pottery in Japan with a 6th generation representative of Ogata Kenzan between 1911-1920. Leach made Raku pottery in Tokyo and became a 7th generation representative of the Kenzan tradition. When he returned to England he continued to do Raku. In the mid 20th century Paul Soldner introduced the now popular process of post firing reduction.
  
     After the clay piece is formed it is left to dry from a few days to a few weeks depending on the thickness and size and shape of the piece and the humidity of the room When the piece is completely dry it is bisque fired (typically in a cone 06 to a cone 03 range). Once bisqued the piece is cooled and ready to be glazed. The glaze can be sprayed, brushed, drizzled, or the piece can be dipped in glaze. After glazing the piece is then re-fired in a raku kiln.

    The glaze firing temperature will depend on the glaze being used (my glazes are in the 1800 degree range). When the piece reaches temperature it is held for a period of time, again, dependent on the size and thickness of the piece being fired. The piece is then rapidly removed from the kiln using tongs and placed into a air tight chamber filled with some sort of combustible material such as straw, sawdust, or newspaper and the lid is put on. The thermal shock causes the glazes to craze and carbon fills the cracks giving the glaze it’s distinctive crackle especially in the white based glazes. Unfortunately, the shock can also cause unwanted cracks and ruin the piece.

     The piece is left in the combustion chamber for a period of time allowing oxygen to be removed from the chamber. This lack of oxygen causes a chemical reaction in the glazes resulting in metallic, iridescent colors. One glaze can produce a variety of colors as flashing occurs in areas that are exposed to more or less amounts of oxygen. The colors achieved are spontaneous and unable to be replicated. The piece is then cooled by quenching with water and cleaned. The glaze firing and reduction process generally takes between one to two hours.  You can now participate in this experience by taking one of our workshops listed on our website.

    
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