I tried my hand at working with clay about five years ago. I imagined that I’d soon be turning large objects and using my sense of proportion to create beautiful and advanced sculptures. I’ve been doing life drawing and painting for many years, so how hard could it be? Extremely hard, as it turned out. My patience (which is not one of my strengths) was tested in all sorts of horrible ways. My small crooked pots and rather ugly figurines in no way measured up to my own aesthetic standards. I was REALLY frustrated and disappointed with myself.
But then I found raku! I joined a raku course taught by a very skilled potter, and hey presto – all my small ugly objects suddenly became rustic and beautiful works of art thanks to the amazing raku technique. And Japanese-inspired, which is just the way I love it. Furthermore, the technique is fast, a little crude and wild. I do it outside in fireproof clothing. Fire, water, smoke, fumes, hissing and bubbles – a little dangerous and thrilling – just the thing for my temperament. It rekindled my love of clay.
Raku is a way of firing ceramics. Raku means ‘pure enjoyment’ – very befitting, I think :-) The raku technique was invented after a natural disaster in 15th-century Korea. Reconstruction had to take place fast, and the potters were tasked with making large numbers of roof tiles. Because they had to work quickly, they started using tongs to take the hot tiles out of the kiln. This went well, because they discovered that the tiles didn’t crack or break. Due to the high sand content of the clay, the tiles could withstand the rapid transition from hot kiln to cold air. Later, the technique found its way to Japan, and the Japanese started making raku tea bowls. Simple everyday bowls for simple folk. In the 16th century, raku ware became a central part of the tea ceremony, and the raku bowl was considered the ‘right’ tea bowl. Today, the raku process is still very simple, and it’s always exciting to see what comes out of the kiln. Such a simple way of firing pottery can yield many surprises.
Check out Lulu’s website under Unique. I regularly sell my own beautiful and unique raku items, as well as works by other ceramicists. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and receive a notification when new and unique pieces have arrived in the shop. See also: My first raku teacher – Jens Hostrup: http://rakugalleriet.com Or find inspiration from: Ferric chloride raku video no. 4 by Linda and Charlie Riggs