Raku for Me and Raku for You

So as I'm sure a lot of you dear readers are aware, I take classes at a ceramics studio in New Orleans. And I love it. And I have no doubt there are some easily drawn metaphors between ceramics and life.

For example, sometimes when you are making pieces on the wheel you have all these grand plans. And then your clay is like "oh no, no way, I'm not even going to get centered for you today". So you try to muscle it into behaving and all you get is a wobbly ash tray for your efforts.

Or sometimes you make the best piece ever. It's like you've made a mug that Jesus would drink coffee out of. It's perfectly balanced, the handle is just right. You have this vision for the finished product so you dip it in your glaze of choice. You drop it off on the "To be glaze fired" shelf. When you get it back a week later something is off in the kiln and your brilliant green piece turns out a horrible, disappointing brown. Because if the temperatures aren't just right, or if your piece doesn't have enough glaze it pretty much looks like poop.

See what I mean about easily drawn metaphors about clay and life?

What I'm really here to share about is this awesome firing technique called Raku. I don't know how it works, all I know is that the studio owner, Martin, has students over to his house on the north shore and we use some special clay and some special glaze and we fire in these special kilns that don't get to live in the studio. Here's the thing about raku, the pieces can turn out absolutely stunning BUT it's really a crap shoot on how it will all go. Ideally, lots of raku pieces look kind of like gasoline that is sitting on top of water. It's shiny and mercurial. The payoff is big, but the risk is high. High risk, high reward.

Today I got to attend my first raku session. And my pieces actually turned out pretty great! I went in with very low expectations, so when the pieces came out of their metal trash cans I was so happy! This time I'll go ahead and spell out that metaphor: Life tends to work best when you let go of your preconceived notions and expectations.

Kiln with neat pulley system. 

These are pieces that are still molten hot. To get the right coloring you put them in a metal garbage can with newspaper. Apparently this has to do with oxidation and reduction. I don't know what that means, but it makes them look cool!

Two of the three pieces I fired today. See what I mean about gasoline on water look?

The finished products. Like I said, it's kind of a crap shoot about what turns out how. Technically I used the turquoise glaze on my vase, but I wanted it to have more of a luster so we didn't give it too much time to oxidize. Or something.



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