What is Raku Pottery?
The term Raku covers a number of alternative firing methods. Without getting into history, Japanese translations. or science lessons, fundamentally, the magic of Raku comes from fire and smoke affecting the clay and causing chemical reactions to metals in the glazes.
What's most important to know is that Raku fires are unpredictable, no two pieces of Raku pottery are alike, and they're risky to the potter due to a high failure rate. Raku pottery is very special.
No Food or Liquids
Raku pottery is porous. The clay will absorb liquid and this will slowly pass through to your furniture. It's understood that absorbed matter cannot be cleaned and in time creates bacteria which most modern people don't want to consume. Some raku glazes contain metal ingredients that can get into food and drink and aren't safe to ingest.
If you'd like to use your vase for fresh flowers, please use a plastic liner to contain the water. If you'd like to display rinded fruit, that should be fine.
Caring for your Raku Pottery
For everyone else...
Please understand that the finishes are fragile and will change over time. Knowing this, we've already done some things to protect your pottery from it's two worst enemies: Oxygen and UV light. Your Raku pottery has been waxed with either Renaissance Wax or Beeswax and has been coated with a UV protectant, specifically Krylon UV resistant acrylic, gloss or matte depending on the finish.
First, please don't place your Raku pieces in direct sunlight. Don't use cleansers to clean them. Just a water damp cloth should do it. If you see your piece changing you should be able to slow the changes by adding more coats of UV protectant.
If you're my age, just treat your Raku pot like a Mogwai: Don't put them in water, don't put them in sunlight, and don't feed them after midnight.
Types of Raku We're Offering
All pieces are handmade and fired for bisque in our electric kiln. The bisque fire makes them stronger than dried mud but still porous enough to accept glaze and carbon. Before bisque, some pieces are coated in terra sigillata which is a very fine mix of water and clay that glosses to a shine when burnished.
This is the method that has the highest failure rate for us. In our experience about 60% survive which I'm told is high. If you have a survivor, you have a special piece.
The kiln is heated to 1200°F, the pot is removed and put onto a pedestal in the open air. When the pot has cooled to around 950°F we start putting hair from a horse's mane and tail onto the pot where they burn and sizzle, leaving a carbon impression. The same can be accomplished with using soft feathers, we've been using ostrich feathers. We add interest by tossing regular old sugar at the pot.
Yes! The burning hair and feathers stink like you think they would, but the sugar smells like creme brulee, so it evens out.
If your horsehair pottery is any other color than white, it's either because we stained the terra sigillata or because we sprayed it with ferric chloride which can be deep brown, red, orange or yellow depending on how hot the pot was when we used it. We use FC at various temps to make our horsehair pots super beautiful.
I'm an 80s wild child and a heavy metal fan so raku glazes thrill me to death. They're unpredictable yet versatile. glossy or matte. Different heat and different combustion can change everything and you don't know what you're getting until you see it. Exciting!
The bisqued piece is glazed, put into the kiln, the kiln is heated to around 1800°F as we look in through a peep hole to see how the glaze looks. When the pot is red hot and the glaze looks like glass, we grab the pot out of the kiln and put it into a reduction chamber which is a metal can lined with flammable material such as newspaper, sawdust, dried leaves, grass. The combustibles ignite when the hot pot touches them, and the chemical reaction begins. The fire is changing the glaze, causing flashes, then we choke the fire by closing the lid. The fire fights to survive inside the chamber pulling oxygen from the clay leaving a black to gray carbon imprint in the unglazed clay and reacts to the metals in the glaze to produce wonderful colors. It's wild that simply opening the chamber to let the fire start again causing more flashes and then closing it can change the results.
These pots have terra sigillata applied, either white or stained. Shortly before the pot goes into the raku kiln a thick water and clay slurry called skip is painted onto the pot. This is done with intention, artfully, as areas left without slip will later become black. The pot is put into the raku kiln while the slip is still wet and the kiln temperature is raised slowly to carefully dry the slip. The slip cracks as the temperature raises and the kiln is heated to 1400°F. The pot is removed from the kiln and placed into a reduction chamber, a small lidded metal can that has combustible materials in it such as sawdust, newspaper, dried leaves, dried grass. The combustibles ignite when the hot pot goes in. We let the fire build some and then choke it by sealing the chamber. Inside, the fire wants to continue so it consumes all of the available oxygen, including the air in the porous clay. This results in a carbon stain on the clay. Some of the surface is protected by the now dry and stuck slip while the cracked spots take the carbon leaving a crackled look behind. Later we scrape off the remaining slip to see a wonderful pot.
f you've read this I hope you realize that Raku pottery is very exciting to me, and I'm absorbing info about it like a sponge. I'm happy to answer questions about the work I've made. Please complete my contact form of you have questions.