Learning the Raku Process in Ceramics Class at Riverhead High School
Riverhead High School art teacher Selena Pagliarulo hosted a ceramics workshop throughout the school day on May 22, 2013. Her students used the courtyard off the Commons area as a classroom where they did the firing work and learned the raku process of making pottery.
FROM RAKU FAQs: Raku is a pottery technique that has it's origins in 16th century Japan. The raku technique, like other pottery techniques such as salt glazing and pit firing, primarily revolves around it's firing process although involvement with raku often goes much deeper into its philosophy, roots, and cultural significance. Traditional raku and our western version of raku are similar in many ways though there are some significant differences.
To briefly describe the raku process we must understand that most all other types of pottery are loaded into a cold kiln where the firing proceeds slowly until the desired temperature is reached. This firing cycle may take anywhere from 8-24 hours or even longer. When the kiln has reached temperature (which is generally determined through the use of pyrometric cones), it is shut off and allowed to cool enough to be able to remove the ware using bare, or lightly gloved hands. The cooling cycle may last from 12-24 hours or longer. The ware is considered finished when it is taken from the kiln.
In raku, the pieces may be loaded into a cold kiln but are often preheated and loaded into a hot kiln. The firing proceeds at a rapid pace with the wares reaching temperature in as short a cycle as 15-20 minutes (though raku firings can last up to several hours depending on the individual pieces and their firing requirements). Glaze maturity is judged by the trained eye without the use of cones or measuring devices. When the firing is determined to be completed the wares are immediately removed from the kiln. Since at this point the glaze is molten, tongs or other lifting devices are used.
This is the stage in the process where traditional and contemporary raku differ in technique and treatment. In our western version the wares are now treated to a 'post firing reduction' phase. The wares are put into a container with combustible material such as sawdust, or leaves and allowed to smoke for a predetermined length of time. The carbonaceous atmosphere reacts and affects the glazes and clay and imparts unique effects and surfaces to the wares. Some of these effects are metallic and crackled glazes surfaces and black unglazed clay. When the wares have cooled, they are washed with an abrasive cleaner to remove all residue of soot and ash, and to bring out the colors of the glaze that was applied earlier.
"This was a unique experience for my students, and they were all very excited," shared RHS art teacher Selena Pagliarulo. "We raised our own funds to pay for the workshop through a craft fair and other fundraisers. It was really worth it!"
Gina Mars conducted the workshop. Below is the link to Ms. Mars' website if you'd like to view her work. (http://www.marspottery.net/) (See photo at the top.)
See more ceramic pieces from Art-In-Action