What Is RAKU? How Is It Made?

In raku pots are made just as for high fire work, either wheel-thrown or hand-built. Then a glaze is applied to areas where desired, like this:

2013-06-05_13-36-25_527Then the piece is placed in an outdoor kiln and heated until the glaze is molten. The lid is raised when the pieces are red-hot:

Then the pieces are removed with tongs and great care and place into a can with paper to catch fire. A lid in placed on the can and left to soak in the resulting smoke until cooled.

Raku is a recent addition to Western pottery, having been brought from Japan to the U. S. by potter Bernard Leach in the 1960’s. A similar technique to the one that Mr. Leach introduced had been used for centuries to create the timelessly imperfect teacup of the Japanese tea ceremony. Bernard Leach went there in search of its process.

At the time that the raku technique arrived on the American scene, many young people were experimenting with pottery, and soon inventive potters had transformed the Japanese process into many creative alterations. One of the most ubiquitous is the metallic effect which most pottery lovers associate with the word raku. But now there are many other forms of the process.

There are many possible variations. Laura Rose credits the techniques that she uses on her work to the generous sharing of Eduardo Lazo in classes he offered at the Mendocino Art Center and to Diane Sonderegger who creates her whimsical pieces at Fire Arts Gallery in Arcata in Northern California.

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