It would be difficult to describe Raku firing without considering its origins and evolution. It goes back to ancient times and embraces many peculiar firing methods that turn simple pots into remarkable art pieces. Artists can use different methods ranging from Naked Raku to Feather Raku, each with a distinct mark on the work. Thus, all pieces symbolize a beautiful union between the art and nature. All the firing tactics represent a fine blend of artisanship, instinct, and randomness of burning. So, in this article, we’ll discuss 5 unique Raku firing techniques and their secrets related to the mysterious process of Potter’s alchemy.
Ignition: The Basics of Raku Firing
Ignition in Raku firing transforms the process into artistry and alchemy. It is an ancient Japanese pottery involving a unique firing process to produce living and unique art pieces. To its core, Raku accepts transgressions and impromptu actions and lets the end product be dictated by the unforeseen.
These firings begin by putting pottery inside a red-hot Raku kiln. When the glaze has reached molten perfection, the pieces are quickly removed and put into an exhaustive chamber containing combustible material. These subsequent flames engulf and mix with glaze, producing different design textures, patterns, and colorations due to interactions of ash and smoke with it. The rapid cooling phenomenon causes another factor that intensifies the specific crackle effect of Raku pottery.
Starting Raku firing is complicated; it creates a piece that showcases the inherent randomness within captivating traditional ceramics.
5 Unique Raku Firing Techniques
Every Raku firing technique has something inherently idiosyncratic that sets it apart. These include:
1. Naked Raku
Naked Raku is the art of adorning pottery with the slip followed by glaze application. A crack appears on the glaze during firing, leaving behind the slipped substance. Once the pottery has reached the desired temperature, it is taken out of the kiln and put into a reduction chamber. In this case, the crackled glaze is peeled off, exposing a pristine slip. The effect is an attractive juxtaposition of the slick, naked clay surfaces with the complicated crackle structures that frequently have smudged charcoal contours around them. Naked Raku embodies the essence of simplicity and surprise, producing pottery with a raw, unadorned beauty.
2. Horsehair Raku
Magic occurs in the post-glazed firing of Horseshair Raku. After removing pottery from the kiln while it was still burning, these organic materials were laid onto its surface after burning. These are not only the hair but also the heat, which causes hair to burn and form elaborate carbon traces upon the surface of the pottery. The procedure enables the soft play between the natural patterns of the hair and the under-glaze below the surface. The products of horsehair Raku have their stamp, imitating a brief moment when an artist combines fire and natural phenomena.
3. Obvara Raku
Obvara Raku comes from the eastern European country of Belarus. To make them different from the typical glaze, unique recipes are made for “Obvara.” It comprises flour, water, and specific ingredients. The plunging of this hot pottery onto an Obvara solution comes after the initial firing. Quick cooling and contact with the solution result in unique and unforeseen surface patterns that are typically raw and organic-looking. Instead of traditional glazing, Obvara Raka presents an approach that creates raw texture and ancient authenticity.
4. Feather Raku
Before the final firing, feathers are carefully arranged onto the pottery for a technique known as Feather Raku. When the article is heated up, and the glaze starts to melt, it is impressed by the complex imprints of the feathers. After that, this pottery is taken to the reduction chamber in which the last change takes place. Feathers burn, leaving behind ethereal patterns like impressions from some world. In its transient, natural beauty, Feather Raku lends an ethereal, graceful finesse to the creations.
5. Crackle Glaze Raku
The crackle glaze is not only a classical but also a timeless Raku technique. Here, cracks are purposely generated on top of the glaze through a controlled cooling procedure. The piece is then placed in a reduction chamber, allowing smoke to permeate the cracks, enhancing their visibility. Crackle glaze Raku imparts a sense of age and history to the pottery, as the intricate network of cracks becomes a visual testament to the unpredictable forces at play during the firing process.
Combining Raku with Other Firing Techniques
It is possible to combine Raku with other firing techniques, which opens up new prospects for creating beautiful ceramic artworks with something different that is ancient and modern at the same time. For example, as another fusion, there is the joining of Raku and the soda fire. This hybrid approach involves the ceramics being fired on the first Raku way while they are put in soda kilns later. The second firing introduces sodium carbonate into Raku, giving a shiny surface with irregular patterns that beautifully complement both the chaotic qualities of Raku and the refined grace of soda firing.
Another popular mix is the combination of crystalline glaze and the Raku process. The final stage in this process sees the object undergo an additional crystalline glaze firing, resulting in a crystal formation forming on the object’s exterior and presenting itself as a vibrant and colorful decorative finish. The combination produces pottery reminiscent of the organic properties of Raku while retaining the crystalline structure associated with fired pottery; this interaction results in a striking juxtaposition between control and the accidental effects typical of this type of firing.
Safety Tips for Raku Firing
No matter what technique is used, it is always essential to ensure complete safety when dealing with any firing procedure. So, here are some practical safety tips for Raku firing.
|Measures to be Taken
|Floor Combustion Prevention
|Cover the floor area or ground where the Raku kiln has been set up with fire-proof and anti-combustion sheathing.
|Distance from Flammable Objects
|Choose a firing area that is safe from flammable products and other potential dangers. Keep a safe distance while firing away from flammable objects, structures, and other people during this activity.
|Emergency Exit Plan
|Have the emergency plan created at work and disseminated among employees in case of accidents or anything not expected. List down additional exit ways besides the main one, emergency numbers, and directions to take cover if no exit is available.
|First Aid Supplies
|Provide a well-stocked first aid kit at the site with burn salve, bandages, etc. Know how to respond to minor injuries by administering basic first aid.
|Assembly and Maintenance
|Ensure you strictly follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the assembly and maintenance of kilns. Check that all parts, such as the burner and lids, function properly.
Aside from this, it is also essential to have a fire extinguisher ready to combat any flames that might erupt before the arrival of professional firefighters. As such, the FIRST ALERT HOME2PRO Fire Extinguisher is one of the most potent yet easy-to-use fire extinguishers that any average person can learn to operate and utilize in times of emergency. It can make a significant difference to your safety if you have a reliable tool like this.
Different firing processes in Raku kilns indicate art, experimentation, and regard for the originality of this antique technique. Raku-firing, however, is not just a firing method but a fantastic voyage into discovering that the unexpected outcomes of nature’s elements of sand and fire are very much the same.