Spark paid a visit to another new area art group on April 10, 2014. The Appalachian Gateway Guild is currently working out of the Appalachian Gateway Center at Southern State’s South Campus. Southern State has elected to stop teaching ceramics once it moves into its new building near Mt. Orab and potters and students in the area are organizing in the hope that they will be able to acquire the Gateway Center and continue promoting the potter’s art.
Spark members participated in an evening of glazing and firing pots using the Japanese technique of raku. Unlike conventional firing, which takes many hours, raku results in a finished pot in an hour or less. Once the piece has been glazed it is placed in a special kiln and slowly brought up to a temperature of 1850 degrees. Then the kiln is opened and using tongs the orange hot pieces are removed and placed in trash cans containing shreds of newspaper and sawdust which instantly ignites. The process is called reduction and all sorts of chemical exchanges occur having uncontrolled effects on the clay and glazes. After several minutes the pieces are again grabbed with tongs and plunged into buckets of cold water to cool. The clay is specially formulated to prevent shattering when exposed to these extremes in temperature.
Ceramic art is one of the genres Spark Creative Artspace hopes to include in its future offerings and raku would be the perfect technique for teaching it.
To help understand the raku process I’ve included two slide shows of various aspects of raku and a video showing much of the same.