Raku Firing

10/7/2010

Raku is a pottery method developed in the 16th century, specifically to create tea bowls for use in Japanese tea ceremonies. The process involves firing a kiln to around 1800 degrees and quickly removing the pottery from the kiln.

In the move from wood to gas kilns, a reduction process was added to the process in the 1960s. Pottery is taken directly from the gas kiln and placed into a metal trashcan with sawdust and newspaper. Quickly closing the trashcan creates the reduction atmosphere.

The trashcan fire pulls oxygen from the clay and metallic glazes to burn the sawdust and newspaper. Carbon replaces the oxygen in unglazed clay to produce dark charcoal surfaces, while oxygen replacement in metallic glazes (often copper glazes) causes unpredictable reactions that produce various colors and sometimes beautiful iridescence effects.

Twisted Terra artist, CJ Niehaus, participated in firing Raku kilns in Carbondale. CJ and other potters taught students and their families and SIU students how to glaze pottery and about the Raku process. Participants learned to glaze pieces and then watched the process of firing and trashcan reduction. After cooling they utilized abrasive pads to clean off their work.

Look for Raku works occasionally available on our online store.