Thursday, 22 April 2010

Raku Firing

I had an excellent three days last week making raku pots – and despite the gloves, mask and goggles, I did manage to take some photographs in the end! Here are some of them.

Above are some of my bisque ware in the process of being glazed. At this stage the glazes are all pastel shades and give very little clues as to how they will come out! Once the pots are glazed they sit on top of the kiln for a while to dry out (damp pots will tend to explode in the kiln).

Above is the raku kiln being packed with pots. Tongs are used here because we've already fired once in this photo (we had a relay going!) so the inside of the kiln is very hot (even though it looks cold).

The kiln is fired using propane from this gas cylinder you can see above: the tube goes from this fitting to the burner (which you can see in the photo below) which fires straight into the back of the kiln through the hole.

Above is a photo looking inside the kiln through the peep hole on the front door of the kiln. As you can see it's pretty hot in there! From a cold start it takes about an-hour-and-a-half to get to temperature, but in a 'raku relay' (firing one kiln after another) it takes about half-an-hour or forty minutes between kilns. The lovely orange colour in the photo shows the kiln is up to temperature, which is about 1000 degrees C. I meant to take a photo of the kiln door opening to show all the hot pots inside but I forgot: far too engrossed in getting the work out!

Above you can see one of my raku coasters being taken straight out of the hot kiln and put into drums of sawdust. The glaze here is still molten and looks different from the bisque state: but it also has to cool yet - so it still doesn't give any clues as to how it will look!

Sawdust is put into the barrels to smother each pot as soon as it comes out of the kiln. We had lots of photogenic flames during two days firing but this tiny little bit was all I caught on camera! Again, too busy trying to put the flames out! Anyway, the pots sit in the sawdust now for about half an hour to cool off and then the tongs are used to dig them out - like lucky dip!

Here are some of my pots fresh from the barrels. As you can see they're covered in carbon and burnt sawdust. They get a quick dunk in a bucket of water just to cool them down enough to touch - and then it's time to scrub them clean using steel wool.

And here above is a photo of the very same pots after about twenty minutes scrubbing!

And finally a photo of some champagne to celebrate the end of a successful and enjoyable three days raku!


  1. Fascinating - thank you for going through the process!

    Beautiful pots. I think I really, really need to learn how to do day : ) Lovely.

  2. Thanks Catherine! Definitely have a go at raku if you can - but warning, it is addictive!

  3. your work is fantastic. I've just started doing ceramics at college, it's part of our course so only for a few weeks. I am pretty rubbish at it though and have a whole new appreciation for pottery/ceramices. M x

  4. Thanks Michelle! Good luck with the ceramics module; hope you're enjoying it. I know what you mean about starting to make ceramics - it all looks so easy. But it's worth it in the end!