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Raku is a creative and dramatic pottery firing technique that originated in Kyoto Japan in the 16th century. It was first used widely to create ceremonial tea ware. The typically heavy construction of raku ware allowed for the handling of hot tea when being poured or sipped.
Raku ware is Characterized by its fragile, porous body and its irregular glaze effects. The firing process of raku pottery is very different than any other pottery firing process, and for me, it is the most exciting way to fire ware.
The raku process begins after the initial bisque firing of the wares. Each piece is carefully brush glazed using specific glaze formulations created especially for this unique process.The pieces are fired extremely fast increasing from ambient temperature to 1850 degrees in as little as a half an hour, when the glaze is mature. The kiln is then opened quickly to reveille the glowing red hot pots, which are then removed using welding gloves and long tongs. The wares are then put in a pit or can and a cumbustable material (usually shredded paper or leaves) is added.The cumbustable ignites instantly and the can or pit is covered to begin the reduction process. The heat and flame burn all of the oxygen out of the atmosphere in the cans which cause the chemical reactions and crackling affects that raku surfaces are recognized for.Because of this dramatic process, loss rates can be significant, but each piece is truely unique and can not be duplicated- So as each successful piece is drawn from the smoldering pit I sigh, and respectfully thank the kiln gods!