Raku: Process /Technique*

The name Raku comes from a gold seal granted to honor Chojiro, the son of a Korean tile maker, who originated the ware in 16th century Japan. The ideograph raku is a symbol that, freely translated means enjoyment, contentment, pleasure, and happiness. Raku ware was guided to fame by Rkyu, Japan's most famous Tea Master, an honorable title granted only to a true artist who had sufficient awareness and insight into nature and man. The post-reduction process is a recent American adaptation to an age old Japanese techniques. Until approx. thirty years ago hot pots were simply removed from the kiln and placed on the ground to cool.

Explained at its most rudimentary level,
Raku can be described as a low-temperature
firing technique. Previously bisqued
(fired and cooled) pottery is glazed
and then placed into a preheated kiln.

The piece is quickly, within an hour, brought
up to approx. 1900 degree and removed
usually with tongues, while glowing hot.

Because of the size and shape of my pieces,
wearing protective gear, I do take most spheres
out of the kiln by hand.



They are immediately placed into a metal
container partly filled with combustible
material such as leaves or sawdust.

The hot piece ignites the material and the
container is quickly covered with a lid to
prevent air from entering and smoke from
exiting. As the flames inside become deprived
of oxygen, a post-firing reduction takes place
which turns the exposed clay surfaces
black and copper bearing glazes
into voluptuous patinas.

Over time, exposed to the elements these colors
might change. The crackle producing thermal shock
is often enhanced by cooling the hot ware in water.

Cracks are sometimes part of the process and do not
diminish the value of a piece, on the contrary, they are
often cherished.

Raku ware is not suited for utilitarian purposes.


*Technical and historical information from "Raku Pottery" and "The Spirit of Clay" by Robert Piepenburg.

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