What Is Raku?

Raku is a type of pottery that comes from the Japanese tradition. It is traditionally characterized by hand molded, rather than turned, clay, making each piece unique. I start my raku pieces on the wheel, then alter them by cutting, slicing, stamping or combing the clay so that the pot expresses my thoughts, most often about the ocean or other environmental influences.

The firing technique is also considered a continuation of the creative process, because the pottery is removed from the kiln while it is still glowing hot and then additional oxides can be sprayed onto the surface before the piece is placed into a reduction container.

We use a small lidded metal trash can as our reduction container. Using tongs, pots are removed from the kiln glowing at 1650-1900 degrees, sprayed with oxides and then placed into the can filled with sawdust, crumpled newspapers, leaves or other flammable materials. Closing the can starves the air of oxygen after the combustible materials catch fire and forces the reaction to pull oxygen from the glazes and the clay.

A reduction atmosphere induces a reaction between oxygen and clay, which affects the color. It also has extraordinary effects on the metals inside the glazes and oxides. The reaction uses oxygen from the atmosphere within the reduction container, and, to continue, it receives the rest of the oxygen from the glazes. This leaves an irridescent luster behind,creating a metallic effect. Pieces with no glaze will turn the clay black, making a matte color, without sheen. I use the black of the clay as design elements in my pieces. Raku is a spontaneous and very creative process. Each piece can be quite a surprise!