The Japanese art of Raku

The truly ancient Japanese art of Raku is known to date back to the 16th century, traditionally crafted by hand and not thrown on a potter’s wheel. A tradition I enjoy exclusively.

Raku is generally considered as being one of the most demanding practices within the field of ceramics. The Raku technique is essentially when glazed ceramics are taken from the kiln while they are still glowing red hot and are then placed in a material that is combustible , such as sawdust and covered. This technique is used to starve the piece of oxygen, which creates a myriad of colours within the glaze. Raku firing without areas glazed dictates that the clay absorbs carbon from the smoke which results in some areas having a grey or black colouring.

Raku clay is in fact a mixture of clay and ceramic ‘grog’ (ground fired clay).

Every piece is individually hand crafted and each bears it’s own unique form and colours with the use of chemical and non chemical glazes.

The grog and clay mixture allows Raku to be fired comparatively quickly at temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees centigrade. However, firing Raku is especially troublesome as the wares are fired quickly at the limit of what they can sustain and when removed from the kiln a percentage of failures is commonplace and philosophically accepted.

The reward for engaging with such a perilous and time consuming procedure comes with contemplating the sheer beauty of Raku which, for me, makes all the angst involved in the various stages of it’s creation worthwhile.