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Modern chemical raku – the balance of control

The balance of control with modern chemical raku is something I fight with as a raku artist regularly.

I have full control over form, but the further I delve into chemical compounds and chemical reactions the further I extend myself into the realms of unpredictability. So much so that one concoction of chemicals can come out white one day and blue the next.

Further raku complications

This is further complicated by the rudimentary means of removing oxygen from the vessels glaze once it has left the kiln. Sawdust, leaves, paper, anything that combusts will suffice to remove the oxygen. But here within lies a problem. These materials release carbon, but also thier own chemical compounds, which can interact with the chosen chemicals on the vessel.

To even further complicate matters, firing vessels together, which are all covered in different chemical glazes, can interact in the kiln and throw the whole batch off.

To complicate matters even further, I have also noticed that speed and temperatures at the final hurdle once the kiln is ready to give up the vessels can affect the results hugely. Two vessels with the same chemicals but with different temperatures and timings into the reduction chambers can be vastly different.

A joyous hit and miss affair

So yes, I am happy to admit and accept that chemical raku, for which I call it, can be a very hit and miss affair.

The only saving grace in my chemical raku is that if the results do not meet desired expectations then the piece will be re-fired or destroyed. This is my way of keeping control over the work I wish to express to others, instead of letting any survived work leave the door whilst trying to tie my output together.  

I enjoy my non-reactive vessels in a very different way, they are hand painted in glazes with exacting results and are far more predictable in final finish; the Autumn Vessel for instance.

I will continue to enjoy chemical raku, but I will always keep in mind that I am handing over my work for nature to finish to some extent. This can be awe-inspiring at times or plain devastation at others.

I am continuing to experiment in blending the two together for tighter results but like I always find myself saying, “It’s Raku”

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