It’s now the day after my first raku firing with my homemade kiln. It took just over two and a half hours to reach temperature, a bit longer than I was expecting, but I was a little nervous about going too fast. Once it looked as if the glaze had matured I turned off the gas; took off the lid; carefully removed each piece with tongs and transferred them to the reduction chamber. At this point I heard a lot of nasty pinging sounds. As I am discovering with this whole journey, there is some good, closely followed by some bad…

The good bits:
– It wasn’t nearly as daunting as I thought it would be
– The kiln worked really well
– The glaze worked well on most pieces

The bad bits:
– Everything cracked!
– The glaze came out too dark (just as I thought it might)
– The glaze on the topmost piece didn’t mature properly
– The glaze wasn’t applied consistently enough in a few places

What I have learned:
– I need to trust my instincts
– I need to use my pyrometer
– I need to try a clay with more grog in it that is more resistant to thermal shock
– I need to apply the glaze more thickly

These are the results. The small black crackles are part of the nature of the process and glaze. The big black cracks are not.



18 thoughts on “Learn

  1. they look great . i would use a cone (05) 0n a piece of kiln furniture , as in my raku kiln it is difficult to get pyrometer in where flame is not hitting it ( i have 5 venturi burners coming up from bottom ) i also use cone 5-6 ws5 for all my raku , and can usually redo them a couple of times if not satisfied . do you quench in your raku chamber? i ususally quench with a hose after about 20-30 seconds , that keeps the piece from reheating and loosing colors . but as i am learning , raku is a crap shoot, love the shots

    • Thank you for your tips John… I was thinking of using cones next time. No I don’t quench the pots. We didn’t at college and I was led to believe that this might add to the thermal shock possibilities. I’m actually really chuffed with the results, even though they are cracked. Not bad for a first effort.

    • Thank you Claudia. You’re right about raku being unpredictable, but I’m hoping in the end to try to be as consistent as possible with my pieces, with just the variations in lustre from the reduction adding individuality. This first firing has taught me so much and hasn’t put me off at all – in fact I’m quite pleased really.

      • I think you will have a lot of success. I like the way you go about your work, thinking it out, methodical, but then enjoying and allowing for the unpredictabilities that go along with doing clay work. I always look forward to your posts. And I agree with the part about learning despite not always getting the results you wanted – “failures” certainly have a lot to teach and once again, I think in clay work experimentation is the best way to learn, both from the standpoint of artistic vision but also just getting the hang of using the materials and tools (which seem to have minds of their own!). I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

  2. Hi Juliet,
    I count myself as a fairly experienced Raku potter ( even though I specialise in ‘naked’ Raku ) having carried out numerous firings over the last couple of years.
    I get up to temperature in 30 minutes usually. I will not be going as high as you because I am not looking to melt my glaze but when I did glaze work I never look as long as 2.5 hours.
    I warm my pots, I get them really warm, hot even. I pop them into my electric kiln for 15 to 20 minutes before transferring them to the Raku kiln. This ensures that they’re really dry and it helps reduce thermal shock.
    The clay you use it important but even thickness and is just as important too.
    Definitely use your pyrometer. I pop mine just under the lid. It works fine.
    Pinging and a gentle tinkling sound is normal for a crackle glaze it’s the loud cracks that make your heart sink.
    Have another go I’m sure you’ll get better results next time ( they look good this time though)
    Cheers. 🙂

    • Thank you so much Debbie for all of that information. I’m really pleased at my first effort. You’re right about the even thickness… the pieces I fired were thrown a good time ago and are definitely not as even as they would be if I had thrown them now. What clay did you used to use? I’m just planning on using a stoneware, but maybe a coarser one than usual. I wasn’t planning on buying an expensive ‘raku’ clay. Would you consider letting me know your resist slip recipe by email? I’ve been looking online but there seem to be so many, however I totally understand if it’s a trade secret. Looking forward to my next firing, and will definitely try the warming tip 🙂

    • Thank you Midori. I’m loving the learning process… sometimes it’s a bit depressing… but mostly it’s fantastic… exhilarating even. Shame I’m not in Canterbury as I’d love to see your new exhibition. My sister lives very near though, so I will mention it to her.

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