I’m currently recovering from a very busy three-day raku firing session which happened this week. Once a year (occasionally twice) I take part in a raku firing workshop with a local group of potters and raku enthusiasts. This will be my fifth year of making raku and it’s still exciting to see the results. We started on Monday with a day of glazing, which was relatively sedate compared to Tuesday and Wednesday when we fired all day in relays. Overall we fired the kiln 13 times and processed over 300 individual pieces of work. Each morning we had the kiln packed and going by 10am and didn’t finish the day until about 5pm or 6pm in the evening. It’s an intense, smoky, hot, dangerous and backbreaking experience, which we’ve privately called ‘extreme raku’!
Anyway I thought you might like to see some photos of this year’s session. I forgot to take photos of some of the key stages this time round, so I’ve filled in the gaps in the process with some old shots I found from previous years.
Above is a photo of a close-up of some of the small pieces I made for raku this year. These are still at the leatherhard stage drying out in readiness to be bisque-fired (pre-fired).
Above are some of my raku pieces now bisque-fired and being glazed. My glazing method here is mostly dipping straight into a glaze leaving areas ‘blank’ which will become black in the post-firing process.
A composite of the equipment: the burner at the back of the kiln, the propane bottle, the peephole at the front of the kiln (showing the temperature is nicely orange and ready for opening) and some drums full of sawdust smoking away.
This photo above is from August 2009. You can see the kiln in the top left corner with the door open. The pots are being unloaded using tongs while the glaze is still molten. They’re plunged straight into the sawdust inside the metal drums and smothered in more sawdust to stop them igniting. This is the post-firing process that creates the crackle effect and black carbonised colour of raku pieces.
This photo is also from August 2009. After leaving the pots in the sawdust for about 20 minutes, we dig them out using tongs. This was a lovely tall raku vase by a fellow potter – I remember it was a beautiful pot…!
Back to this year’s work. Above is a selection of my small raku bowls and pieces cooling down after being dug out of the sawdust. They’re covered in carbon and burnt sawdust residue at this stage.
Another composite of cleaning my new raku pieces using steel wool and water.
And that’s as far as I’ve got with the photos of this year’s raku. Hope you enjoyed looking at them. By the way, you can see photos from last year’s raku session here – it might explain the process more (if you’re interested!) I hope to start adding new raku pieces to my shop soon - when I've photographed them all - so please look out for them!