All most all of my pottery is considered food safe, meaning that you can eat off it, put it in the dishwasher, microwave or oven. But not all firing methods for pottery or ceramics produce “useable ” work. Raku fits into that area. Raku, traditionally, comes from Japan where that method produced the wares for tea ceremonies. The word means “ease”, “comfort” or “enjoyment”. Despite the fact that is was used in the past for tea ceremonies, it is a lower fired temperature which creates a more porous surface and at present is not recommended for consumer use.
That all being said, Raku is a fun thing to do. I like to think of it as an instant gratification for potters. We usually have to be quite patience waiting for the results of each firing, but with raku it’s a matter of just a few hours to see the final creation.
I tend to avoid raku because for one thing, the clay has a lot of grog in it. That translates into lots of extra material in it to help it hold up to the thermal shock that it gets as it’s pulled from the fire to the atmosphere or into a water bath. That extra materials is quite rough and after a potter (me) is accustom to using a smooth clay body like porcelain, well, it’s an exfoliating process for your hands and sometimes can be painful. But my local clay group had a show at Spiva Center for the Arts whereby we used alternative firing methods, so I raku-ed. And it was fun, so I participated at the Clay Dogs Raku Days in Nixa, Missouri as well. The pics that follow chronicle what the journey was like.
The first picture is kind of my trophy shot (my dad was a big game hunter and I can’t tell you how many pictures like this that he had taken – until my own daughters wanted pictures of grandpa without a dead animal in it)
The second picture depicts the heart ache that can accompany raku firing. This piece was the biggest that I had done at that time and it was just too bottom heavy to withstand the thermal shock. We actually heard it break after the firing then slowing watched it fall to pieces.
The last set of pictures were taken at my friend, Brent Skinner’s pottery location…more on that at another post. The people are Brent, Melody Knowles and myself…the pieces were in the Spiva show.