When I first started raku firing at my home with a friend many years ago, our husbands together called us the “raku-nuts.” Today, some here at The Village Potters refer to my Raku Intensive class students and myself as the “raku crazies.” Both of these nicknames are due to symptoms of a somewhat rare condition in the ceramic world that can afflict those potters who venture into the world of alternative firings. Symptoms include but are not limited to: a growing fascination with FIRE, a decreased desire to make functional pots, an almost complete lack of certainty regarding the final outcome of your work, coupled with an insatiable desire to ask ‘what if’ and try it just to see what may happen, and last but not least an obsession with purchasing bizarre chemicals and behaving like a mad scientist (very carefully). Although this disorder has succeeded in making us a bit obsessive, I must say that the passion that comes with alternative firings far exceeds the concerns about the condition.
Since the start of my Raku Intensive classes here at The Village Potters Clay Center (several years ago), I have had several students who immediately gave in to this condition, and have studied and experimented with me ever since. For some the symptoms manifest more slowly and take a while to become severe.
So what are these “alternative firings” that can unwittingly capture the focus of some potters on their clay journey? First of all raku is a term that is often used loosely to refer to many different types of low temperature alternative firings. Technically, raku is a very specific low temperature firing that started in Japan in the 1600’s. Other alternative firings include horsehair raku, obvara, naked raku, saggar firing (foil saggars, clay saggars & mummy saggars) and pit firing. All of these firings are what we call low temperature firings and the pieces are not fully vitrified and therefore not to be used for food or water. Their function is to beautify the spaces they occupy and make your heart happy. There is a possibility however, that collectors of this fine work can become raku-crazy as well!
So if you are a potter a bit overwhelmed by all the many possibilities in this journey, come join us for a Raku Intensive class. The next start date is Thursday, August 22. Or you can just get a taste of a few of these firings at our next Raku Workshop on Saturday, September 14. But be forewarned…the passion is contagious!
Resident Potter, Instructor, Mentor