Much of my work is made using the technique of raku. It was originally a 16th century Japanese method of firing pottery, that has been adapted by modern potters.It is a very exciting method of firing creating a distinctive smoked body and crackle glaze often with metallic highlights
The firing is full of joy and heartbreak; pieces often crack as the sudden temperature change is too much of a shock, the pots are very fragile. Sometimes a glaze doesn't come out as good as expectations, but sometimes it exceeds them!
The gas fired kiln is made from an old dustbin, ceramic fibre and a roofer's torch. The work is taken from the kiln whilst glowing red hot at about 1000 degrees centigrade.
It is then plunged into something combustible ( usually a bin of sawdust). Within the sealed bin the sawdust burns and creates a reducing rather than an oxidising atmosphere. This chemically alters the glaze and the clay body.
Then, after waiting a few hours (this is the hard part - I am very impatient!) the pots are unearthed from the sawdust
The pots come out black and sooty and are scrubbed to reveal their lustrous range of colours. The unpredictability is part of the attraction, glazes can vary depending on how quickly I can get them out of the kiln, the type of sawdust and particularly the weather on the day of the firing. I am one of the few people that are enthused by windy November days!
Although Raku pottery was originally used for the Tea Ceremony in Japan, nowadays it is not recommended to use Raku ware for food, due to the nature of the crackle glaze and metallic elements. Neither is it watertight as it is relatively low-fired. The pots are generally used as decorative pieces. However it is of course possible to use a bowl for fruit with a skin, like oranges, or nuts in their shells.