I have been creating wheel thrown pottery for over 40 years. My interests have included high-fire functional stoneware, porcelain, crystalline glazes, raku, ceramic decals, as well as earthenware. Through all of the years, I have focused on the form of the vessel.
I have a clear idea of what kind of forms I wish to make before I wedge the clay. For example, I might decide to make “wide bulbous shapes” with a small base and narrow opening, or wide “full” bowl forms that are graceful and show off the curve of the pot. When the pieces have been bisque fired, I look at each one individually and wait until I can see what kind of glazing will work the best on that form. Sometimes it happens quickly but sometimes it may take several days. I continue to be excited by the contrast of the black and white of the raku technique-the uninterrupted flowing lines of the form along with the simplicity of the metal leaf.
The style of raku tha tI create is called “peel off raku.” A bisque fired pot is coated with a slip over the exterior surface. This slip is used as a barrier between the pot and the glaze so that they will separate from the pot after firing. The fracturing action of the slip/glaze layers when penetrated by smoke and carbon leaves a soft crackle finish that stains the pot’s surface that is striking yet subtle in comparison the the more common surface that results from a raku glaze.
The type of clay is also important since it must have enough grog/sand in the body to withstand the stress of a raku firing. And because the clay body is not fired to maturity, the raku pottery I create is for decorative use only. The pots can be cleaned with a dry cloth.
When I fire the pots, I heat the kiln to 1,600 F. I open the top of the kiln and remove the vessel with tongs. I next place the pot into a hot metal garbage can full of paper and sawdust. When the red-hot pot ignites the combustibles and flames are plentiful, I place the lif on the can. In this reducing atmosphere, the pot absobrs the smoke and carbon. I remove the pot after a brief cooling period. The end result is a combination of temperature, thickness of slip and glaze, the type of combustibles used, the time spend in the reduction chamber, the temperature of the vessel when th ewater is used to cool the slip/glaze which peels off. No two firings are ever alike.
After I clean the pots of residue, I more often than not, apply two to three layers of metal leaf to the selected areas to provide a contrast from the darker and muted grays/blacks to the highly reflective metal surface.