Thursday, 20 June 2019

Playing with Fire

Raku is a type of low fire kiln process that involves taking the pottery from the kiln at bright red heat and placing it in containers with combustible materials. Once the materials ignite, the containers are closed. This produces an intense reduction atmosphere which affects the colours of the glazes and creates smoke.
Lots of photos in this post. I spent the day in a friend's back yard firing pottery. And there was a pot luck lunch.... yummy!
This mask was created made by pressing a slab of clay against a piece of tree trunk that had been cut down. All the ridges and textures of the bark were transferred into the clay and two simple eyes and a mouth were cut out. The mask was bisque fired once and was ready to be glazed.

A selection of the glazes that were available. When the glaze is painted onto the clay, there is no indication of what colour it might appear after firing. It's always a surprise.

Hard at work at the glazing table.

Some of the glazed items waiting for their turn in the kiln. My mask was glazed with a black lustre glaze.... no idea what it might look like when fired.

The back yard kiln. Fuelled by a propane tank. Some finished pieces on top warming up ready for the next firing.

This very hot piece is taken from the kiln and will be plunged into a metal container full of combustible materials, in this case crumpled newspaper, and then the container closed. This is where the magic happens to the glaze.

This process makes lots of smoke. Don't stand too near. And have tolerant neighbours!

Here comes the mask out of the kiln. The firing takes about 15 - 20 minutes.

This dish has just been taken out of the metal flame container and is cooling. It still has to be cleaned up to get the soot and burnt paper off, but much of the black smoke colour will be kept on the clay.

This piece has been fired without a glaze. While the piece is still extremely hot, straight out of the kiln, strands of horse hair have been draped over the surface. The hair burns away but leaves a decorative carbon trail. One of the other potters did the same process with large fluffy ostrich feathers.

And here's the finished mask! It still needs a good clean up to get all the soot off, but I'm happy with it. The photo doesn't do justice to all the different iridescent colours that have appeared in the glaze.


  1. Very clever, looks like a whole lot of fun. I love the white pot with the marble type look.

    1. Those squiggly lines are made by adding horse hair to the surface when the piece is straight out of the kiln.

  2. Thank you.
    I have a raku pot which I love and while I knew about the process I had never seen it.
    Love your mask and the photo does show at least some of the iridescence.

  3. Looks like an interesting day and so productive! Love the result.

  4. A fun creative day. I love the look of your mask. You'll have to show it to us when it is done.

  5. It seems to be a good social day too.

    1. Indeed it is. I met lots of very interesting people.

  6. Working together with such creative people would have been lots of fun. Your mask looks handsome.


  7. Oh wow that looked so much fun Shammi, lots of energy used too! I love your mask, looks a wee bit like The Scream sculpture by Edward Munch 😉 I can see the iridescent colours are gorgeous ✨

  8. Wow, pure artistry. What a fun group to be doing all of that in one's back yard.
    I love the iridescent finish on your mask. Too fun.

  9. Hi reguards to your question...Breakaway is an annual day camp at our church.
    Ages kindergarten through 5th grade... 6th - 8th learn to be leaders with an adult by interning during the sessions. It takes a lot of volunteers in various capacities to make it all happen. Arts and crafts, recreation, small groups, rally (with an on going story line for each day) snacks, security and a whole lot of admin. The church is a closed campus for the 3 hour sessions. One morning and one 5PM - 8Pm. Lots of water activities, slip and slides...go carts , par course type activities, zip line and a special session for those with special needs. Each one with a disability has their own "buddy" with them at all times so they can do activities too. Its a excellent program and we have a lot of children participate. The theme this year was The Lost Treasure, Biblical story and acted out with a Pirate theme, which the kids loved.

  10. Yes the "camp" has sessions both in the morning 9-12 and another in the afternoon 5-8PM.
    Different attendees but many of the same volunteers work at both, as my Hubby and I did.
    School gets out very early here in Northern California. the students around here have been out since the first week of June. Actually some even earlier. That means school begins in August for most..crazy, but that's the way it is.


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