Or as I pronounce it, “Rakuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu” because I have to admit to getting rather giddy about it.
Now. Imagine. Firing your clay in an electric kiln is like putting your central heating by plugging it in and turning on the switch. Raku, however, is like having a campfire outside and dancing around it the full moon. Well, maybe not the last bit. But it’s still big fun!
Why? It uses all the elements – earth, fire, air and water, and you can see the process happenning in front of you.
What is Raku?
Raku I’ve read, in its original form was/is an ancient type of Japanese pottery (16th century) traditionally used in tea ceremonies. Westerners have adapted it a bit and now it’s known for spectacular colours and effects.
So how do you…raku?
You need to bisque fire the sculptures (which I do slowly in the electric kiln) as usual, decorate them with your glazes, and then you’re ready to raku.
I landed myself a propane powered converted oil drum as my raku kiln from a very knowledgable chap who makes them after many years of experience.
The propane fuels the torch which heats the kiln up to about 1000°C within about an hour (MUCH faster than the electric kiln) A thermocouple and pyrometer measure the temperature whilst I keep my distance with a fire extinguisher handy and my gauntlets, goggles and face mask on. But I’m ready baby, I have my blacksmith-forged tongues ready to take those red hot ceramics out of the kiln and into a metal bucket of combustibles. Yes. We are talking FIRE!
But it doesn’t last long as you need to get the lid on pretty quickly to keep in all the smoke and allow all the glazes to work their magic. About 20 minutes in the smoking tin and they’re released and carefully placed into another bucket – this time of water. This stops the process and you get to see the amazing reactions that have gone on. Magic.