Members of the three ceramics workshops, facilitated by James Hayes at Signal Arts Centre, prepared pots last spring for a raku event planned for the autumn. The pots had all been bisque fired and glazed and waited over the summer in anticipation!
James had also built a new kiln from an old oil drum, bowdlerising some materials from the old square kiln. This kiln was much more efficient and heated to temperature in about an hour.
After removing one of his pots from the oil drum kiln, James gave a demonstration of some raku design techniques.
Touched to the hot pot, the feather burns a design into the pot.
Sugar can also be (gently) thrown at the pot to create random blotching effects.
The final chance possibility is to place the pot in a "smoker". Here we used a metal trash can full of sawdust and paper. Any part of the pot that is unglazed will hopefully become black in the "smoker".
From experience gained at the previous raku event, many people - including me - had been collecting hair to burn onto the pots. I collected my own hair (which is curly) from my hairbrush and also had some bits of my daughter's straight hair. After being removed from the "smoker" the pots are dunked into cold water.
It was obvious to everyone at the event that things were especially working well and there were lots of "oohs" and "aahhhhs" as final pieces were removed from the cooling water bucket.
Here is a view of my two finished pieces. I used a red and a white glaze; the black is from the smoker. As well as a crackle effect from the raku process, the designs were created by hair, feathers and sugar. I was surprised that ghostly hair effects are visible in the black areas and in some parts the hair looks metallic. I am very pleased with the results!
Raku is originally a Japanese ceramic process, the word meaning "comfort", "ease" and "release", among other possible translations. Here is another view of my two raku "goblets".