Raku Handbuilding Project

Back in August I did a week-long pottery course in Ipswich, UK and one of the projects we did aside from working on the wheel was handbuilding and raku firing. Raku is a traditional japanese form of ceramics where, unlike loading a kiln cold and then bringing up the temperature gradually, clay pots are put directly into a hot kiln at over 1000*C.

Here is a snippet of the stuff I made.. They now sit in my room very sweetly and semi-functionally. I made a bowl and three little people (or chickens?) with strange hats who sit on 3 little feet.

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For handbuilding we used a stoneware clay and mixed our own grog into it which was an intense upper body work out! Grog is effectively already fired clay which is ground up very finely into a sandy powder and is used to reinforce strength in the clay so it doesn’t become too easily overworked.

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a basic pinch pot makes up one half

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two pinch pots are joined together to make a hollow spherical shell

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smooth out the clay and firmly pat it over with a wooden batt to reinforce strength in the clay walls.

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off with its head! (using a knife tool)

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fix on feet

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leave to dry entirely before a light bisque firing once and glazing

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For the finish, pots are then removed fro the kiln after the glaze has melted and then they are thrown into a bath of sawdust to react with the oxide glazes for 20 or so minutes which results in a very unpredictable yet beautiful metallic effect. They are then removed and dumped into a barrel of cold water to cool. The ash from the sawdust then has to be scrubbed off and the pots cleaned.

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I used a white crackle glaze for the outsides and alternated the inside glaze colours: copper, turquoise, cobalt.┬áThese pieces could probably do with an extra cleaning – I’ve just been lazy!

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More posts from my pottery course (more exciting wheel throwing experiments) are to come intermittently when I can find the organisational prowess.

x GP.

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