A Raku firing

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I very much enjoyed returning to the media of Raku firing this autumn.

The freedom and immediacy of the technique calls on you to become less precious about aims and to allow what will happen to happen; within the parameters of the physics involved. The heat and cooling cause wonderful colours and pattern effects, but if not controlled can leave you with nothing to show at the end. This comes through experience.

I did my first Raku firing in college in Derby in 1980; I wrote my college thesis on the culture and technique, had my own wonderful coke fired kiln in my studio in Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire. The pots I made there were extremely popular and I sold virtually all I produced.

I got to share firings with friends in America, there is always an atmosphere of sociability and sharing food and drink at a firing, the whole technique itself was created to enliven the tea ceremony in imperial Japan for that very reason.

As a teacher of ceramics through the rest of my time I have found it to be invaluable as a way to encourage students to learn the totality of ceramic making, especially the effects of fire on ceramic, as one gets to see and smell the force of the heat directly, rather than just through a peep hole in a gas or electric kiln.

On our recent visit to Japan, Sarah and I enjoyed a stroll through a beautiful suburb of Kyoto to visit the Raku museum situated alongside the traditional home and workshop of the original Raku family. Now in it’s 15th generation!

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