I mentioned in my previous post that David Roberts kindly let us bring some pieces to raku fire during our SPA weekend at Kindrogan. I’ve done naked raku once before, at Gray’s School of Art, and I’ve been meaning to have another go. This experience has inspired me to try and do further firings at home, perhaps over the summer.
David is a master of raku ceramics. His large-scale pieces are breathtaking and it was fascinating to discover more about his process. He cleverly juxtaposes rough and smooth surfaces in his pieces which adds depth to his already complex designs.
A detail of one of David’s stunning large bowls.
We were asked to bring some already bisque fired pieces to the workshop. Ideally these would be burnished to a smooth finish or have terra sigillata applied. The pieces were dipped into a barrier slip, some with areas already masked off. Once dry they were dipped into a raku glaze and dried again. At this point they could be fired as they were, or designs could be incised through the layers of glaze and slip. The slip is what stops the glaze from adhering to the pot during firing. The areas that have been left bare will become black during reduction.
First the pieces were gas fired relatively quickly to approximately 850˚C.
The pieces were pulled from the kilns and put into reduction chambers.
Then they were taken out and the glaze chipped away to reveal the naked pot underneath.
Following a good scrub to remove any remaining slip the pots were allowed to dry.
I almost love the bases more than the tops.
During the open studios last week I did a couple of raku demonstrations using my homemade dustbin kiln and I had some lovely visitors to witness the process. Thank you to Hilary Firth from Starglazing for taking most of the following photographs…
Kiln heating up nicely, using a probe to keep an eye on the temperature.
Once the kiln reaches temperature and the glaze has matured,
the lid is removed and red hot pieces are removed with tongs.
Red hot pieces are placed into a reduction (smoking) chamber lined with sawdust.
The lid is put on and the chamber is left until it has cooled.
A blackened piece after being removed from the reduction chamber.
The blackened pieces are then scrubbed under water.
The best of the bunch with some great copper flashing.
The transformation the urchins undergo is fascinating to me. These blackened lumps are removed and are scrubbed until they reveal their true selves, just like treasure from a wreck being brought to the surface, cleaned and discovered,
Someone mentioned to me a while ago that I should try using less sawdust for the reduction and this advice worked a treat. In fact the results were the best ever. I’ve been trying to replicate one particular piece that I fired during my course at Gray’s and this was the first time I’ve managed that. So, after five raku firings I am by no means an expert, but progress is definitely being made.
It’s been a busy few weeks preparing for NEOS 2014. Just a few more things to finish and another couple of firings then I hope to be ready. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m hoping to sneak a little time out to go and see some other exhibitors too. If you’re in the area please do pop in.
If you’re not local then I’m hoping to add a gallery of some of my newest work shortly so you can see what I’ve been up to. Just need to get past the next fortnight first.
Sea urchin; straight from reduction (smoke) chamber (l) and after cleaning (r)
I thought I wouldn’t make it into the studio until next week but I got itchy fingers yesterday and couldn’t resist. I didn’t have time to throw anything so I decided to do some raku glazing and firing instead. It looked like it would be a perfect clear cold night for my second firing using the homemade kiln. I mixed up a new version of the turquoise raku glaze that I have used before – this time with a little less copper oxide in the hope for a lighter colour. I glazed a number of small urchins that were biscuit fired before the holidays. After trying to learn from my previous mistakes the results were much better than last time: a much quicker firing; and a better glaze colour; but nearly everything cracked again. Now I’m sure I need to change to a clay with more grog in it.
What I do love about raku firing is that at first you pull out these black lumps from the reduction chamber and they look pretty grim, but then you get them under the tap and start to scrub away the soot and smoke to reveal the finished pot beneath.
Next time I must remember some marshmallows for toasting.
You may also like to see these other related posts:
Heart urchins found on Wester Ross beaches
Last week I reached 500 likes, which feels like a big milestone for me. Once again I want to say thank you to all of my followers who have taken the time to read my blog over the last five months. Your constructive and supportive comments are much appreciated.
It’s been a glorious day up here in the north east of Scotland. The sun has been streaming through my studio window and I spent a lovely few hours this afternoon turning, burnishing and decorating some urchins. My plan is to make a homemade raku kiln in the next few weeks and get firing. I’ve tried a few different shapes…
I think the squatter ones are more successful, but when they’re grouped the differing heights look quite nice. I’m going to try and throw some bigger ones next time.
What do you think the collective noun is for urchins?
So, the next thing was an Intermediate Ceramics course at Gray’s School of Art. With the help of the amazing Morag McGee I had the opportunity to explore alternative firing techniques. There were only a few of us throwers, as most of the students preferred hand building, but it was a treat to meet some kindred spirits.
As the course progressed I found inspiration in naturally occurring patterns, particularly marine based ones. I must be harking back to my childhood living a mile from the Dorset coast. Also remembering the first discovery of sea urchins on an early holiday to Malta… their black spiky forms at the bottom of the turquoise water is unforgettable.
After spending my snowy winter Thursday evenings huddled around the outdoor kilns, occasionally accompanied by the odd toasted marshmallow, we entered this spring with an exhibition which ran from 9-17 March.
Here are some of the results…
Traditional glaze firing