Raku

My favorite way to fire my Broken Clay jewelry is called Raku. Raku is an ancient, Japanese, way of firing, we have changed it a bit here in North America over the centuries. It’s results are unpredictable, and they are far more immediate than a regular firing done in my electric kiln. You can get some exceptionally, wildly beautiful pieces, and you can get what I call burnt cookies. It is worth it to me even if I get a couple of pieces of the wildly beautiful ones. There are many factors that lend themselves to the final results. It depends on the type of clay, the glaze used, the temperature, the reduction of oxygen environment, the fire that envelopes the piece, and probably more variables that I am not aware of. I can do exactly the same process each time and every time there is always a different result. I am new to this type of firing, so maybe I will be able to repeat the results that I want over and over again, eventually. I don’t fire this way often but when I plan to raku again I can’t wait to see what will happen, since it is so unpredictable, so raw and wild.

Raku is a fast firing, using a tiger torch. My raku kiln is a wire mesh barrel lined inside with a fire blanket. There is a hole cut into the bottom of the kiln, where the tiger torch goes. I load my glazed pieces on an expanded stainless steel tray, place them in the kiln, and then light the torch and fire to 1860 F. It is at this point that the glaze melts and bonds with the piece. Within a couple of minutes, my husband and I will open the kiln and take out the trays of red-hot jewelry and place them into a container prepared with sand and either paper or sawdust. When the sawdust or paper ignites, we place a lid on top and seal it so that the air is used up by the fire, this is what is called a reduction firing. After the jewelry have been covered for a few minutes, we remove the trays and dunk the pieces into cold water to set the color. When I take the pieces out of the water I get to see the color of my jewelry. This whole process is exciting, a little dangerous, and I love that I have to fire outdoors. There is a sense of freedom in this. In a way I feel like it is God and I together working on the jewelry. I do as much as I can, and He takes care of the wild, raw and chaotic part of it.

It is funny how often what I see is burnt cookies, others see them as unique and beautiful. My husband has to remind me that even if I don’t appreciate the pieces someone else will. They have a beauty all their own.

 

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