Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Process...

The Raku Process with a Small Electric Kiln

I have been asked several times what raku is and aside from giving the textbook definition I thought I'd give a visual description of the process. At least, the process that happens here in my studio.

Now, those that are familiar with the process will most likely balk at the mere thought of using an electric kiln (gasp) for the process. It's truly the best that I can do with the whole: "living in the city and trying to find propane" issue. It works and I'm making beautiful art. Albeit small pieces of art, they are still extremely satisfying and beautiful.

Before any other discussion I do have to say that safety is a huge concern with raku. Glowing hot vessels, fire and smoke are all serious. I wear my protective gear at all times and will always suggest any artist do the same with ANY art they are making that revolves around a dangerous process.

And with that, here is how it is done:

First the wares are glazed with special raku glaze.

Wares glazed with raku glaze

Then my station is prepared including the combustible bin. Shredded papers are my favorite.

My paper shredder
has become my best friend

Because the electric kiln is so small I can only fire one ware at a time. The nice part about this particular kiln is that it has a "quick cool down" feature so by the time my piece has finished burning in the bin the kiln is ready to fire up another.

One ware added to
Paragon Quickfire base

After a few minutes I begin to physically check the kiln. When the glaze becomes molten it's ready.

At 1800 degrees or so...
lift the lid and take a peek

Woooo.....so ready for the combustible bin. Look at it glow!!! You have to see it at night! It's really cool.

Glaze is molten and glowing hot

The ware is carefully added to the bin and it automatically catches on fire.

Add it to the bin

The bin is then closed and allowed to smoke. If the cover is lifted at any point there is the danger of the fire flashing up again. I normally don't lift the lid once it's on. I like the results with a bit of flame in the beginning then smoke.

Cover quickly and let it smoke

After approx 20 minutes the bin is safe from flashing to open. This is my favorite part of the process.

Peek in bin

The ware will stay red hot for quite some time so I handle them with care at this stage. I also don't immerse in water. I find that I loose too many pieces to cracking this way. I let them cool down by themselves.

The finished product

And that is it! Raku ware is never safe for food or drink and is only meant for enjoyment. There is something so ancient and timeless about the finished pieces. It is, by far, my favorite ceramic method. It is truly pure enjoyment for me.

Recently finished raku pieces currently in my store.

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