all pieces snug in their nest

the barrels await

dry redwood droppings


a glowing kiln

on the way to 1800 degrees farenheit

from the flaming bucket into a water bath

cooling off after the christening

the ocarina and the box


Ceramics class.  Our first project of the semester was to make three hollow spheres, one from each of three different clays; Big Red, which is red and gritty, Sonoma White, which is white and slightly gritty, and B-mix which is very smooth and porcelain-like.  Next we turned one sphere into a head, another into an ocarina (see ocarina post), and a third into a cup.  The next project was to build a box out of 6-inch square slabs of clay, and then decorate it by making impressions in the clay and cutting a lid into it, so that it is a box with a fitted lid.  Once they were dry, they were all bisque-fired, and then we painted them with an assortment of underglazes and raku glazes. 
Yesterday was the big day when we got to play with fire!  We loaded the small raku kiln with our pieces and heated it slowly at first, with the lid off, to make sure everything was good and dry. Then we put the lid on and let it roar!  The temperature rose to 1800 degrees Farenheit in about 45 minutes.  We could look carefully through the holes in the top of the kiln and see our pieces glowing within.  Meanwhile, we prepared our buckets.  These were small metal trash cans set on trays of sand and filled with our choice of combustible materials.  I had three pieces in the kiln, so I had one bucket filled with crumpled newspaper and two with dry debris gathered from beneath a nearby redwood tree.  Each bucket had a slightly larger bucket next to it to put over the top.  Once the temperature in the kiln reached 1800 degrees Farenheit we opened the lid and with eye protection in place, long sleeves, sturdy shoes, and thick insulated leather gloves and long metal tongs we took turns lifting our glowing hot pieces from the kiln and placing them into our buckets.  Once in the buckets, the combustibles burst into flame around the blazing hot piece.  We then put the larger buckets over the top to quell the smoke and flame.  Exciting!  As we transferred the pieces we could hear the hot glaze crackling.  Another option was to just let the piece cool without the bucket step, or to spray it with water for another effect.  After being in the bucket for about ten minutes we took my little raku dude and dunked him in a comically deformed plastic bucket full of water.  The glaze became lustrous!  The dark red box I left to cool on its own in its bucket of charred newspaper, same with the ocarina.  I especially like the way the box turned out.  I painted it with five coats of neon red glaze and then two coats of clear raku crackle glaze.  It turned out to be dark red, I like it.  Inside it is painted tangerine matte.  I haven’t seen the inside yet cause the lid is a little stuck and we ran out of time and the teacher had to lock the room.  I left the box and the ocarina on the shelf to cool, they were still too hot to handle, but the little raku dude got to come home with me.    

the kiln

About Zahara

gardener, cyclist, student, mom,
This entry was posted in ceramics, college and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to raku

  1. afirmin71 says:

    Hi, I love the process, it looks so industrial and the outcome is really spectacular. I have not really looked at ceramics before. The red box looks amazing. Great post. Take care Alan

    • Zahara says:

      Alan, thanks for stopping by, it means a lot to me! Excuse the picture quality, I took the photos with my phone at the last minute. Industrial, yes, but this type of firing can be done at the beach, with wood instead of propane for fuel. Can’t wait to learn that process, I’ll be sure to bring a better camera and blog about it. Cheers!

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