This post is a short explanation of the history and process of raku firing- the reduction firing of ceramics, originating from XVII. Century Japan (the name raku derives from a very successful family/clan of ceramicists, called Raku). In that time in the West, our tables were filled with whiteness of porcelain. The spirit of raku ware is the opposite- it is about simplicity, imperfection, closeness to shadow and darkness, mysterious rather than plane, with meditative beauty and uniqueness of every piece. Raku ware is something you can’t grasp momentarily with your sight alone- you have to feel it. Touch the cup’s porous surface, smell and taste the content and allow yourself to be elevated by the following:
“Raku is when the Universe is in the teabowl”
What you will see on added photos is but a Europeanized technique. The technique developed from the practice of Bernard Leach, who brought the knowledge of Japanese ceramics to Europe at the start of XX. Century. The technique bears the same name, but has in fact little to do with the ancient practice.
The process starts with bisque fired pieces, being heated in the kiln.
Pieces are then taken out of the kiln at about _ degrees Celsius and are put in the reduction chamber of some kind- ours was a covered bin, containing sawdust. Water can b e sprinkled on the glazed surface for grater shock and consequent visual effects.
Finally, pieces are taken out of bins and cleaned. The whole process takes a lot of time, especially waiting for the temperature to rise and is done easier by a group. The need for common effort and the bringing-together it does is a part of its charm. The final steps are made quickly and with focus. After the pieces cool, they need to be rinsed thoroughly- a very rewarding process of slow discovery of your little piece of the Universe.
While going through all of my documentation from the last college semester, I decided to post some, to illustrate this part of my thinking process. Here is a small collection, connected with my portfolio content:
During my Erasmus stay in Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts and Design (VŠVU), I joined the GLASS Studio under mentoship of prof. Patrik Illo. Together with some of the fellow students, I was given a wonderful chance to relize a few projects with blown glass at Stredna odborna škola sklarska, Lednicke Rovne.
After an introductory meeting with the schools hot shop master glass blower, we debated our ideas and planed their realization during the next three days.
But first we were given some thrilling glassblowing lessons… 🙂
And then… Action! Experiments were dramatic sometimes… Smokey, sweaty and smelly
I felt privileged to watch a skilled glass cutter at work. Perfect curves and calm, learned gestures. I was amazed.
On the second day, my project was realized. It was technically challenging and additianally hampered by communication difficulties. I was forced to operate with a few slovak words I learned so far.
After the first bubble was blown, the second “ponti” (blowing pipe) was added to it and the first one was cut of. The shape was then closed with reheating and pinching together the opening.
Finally we formed the deepening on the newly closed form and layed it in the annealing kiln to cool.