My pottery education came from a young potter in the Seattle area named Christopher Mathie. I spent a year or so with Christopher and learned extensively about throwing and firing pots using the ancient Japanese technique called Raku. Christopher is one of the most successful Raku potters in the northwest and his work is displayed and prized worldwide. He uses Raku techniques exclusively and all of his work is impressive and much of it quite large. The technique can be described as follows:
Raku is a Japanese inspired method of firing that creates unpredictable smoke patterns and spectacular metallic and crackle effects in the glazes. After initially firing the piece in a kiln, it is glazed and fired a second time. When the temperature of the piece reaches about 1800 degrees and the glaze has melted, the piece is placed in combustible materials (leaves, sawdust and pine needles) in a metal container and covered. This is called post reduction during which the oxygen is burned out of the glaze taking the colorants back to a metal producing the metallic lusters seen in raku. Like life and that box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get, but it is usually very beautiful.
Raku Kiln Fired Examples
My Raku work is somewhat limited by the size of my gas fired Raku kiln and because of this I tend to do smaller projects of three or four pieces at a time. For larger projects I use a much larger electric kiln and look for creating uniqueness by experimenting with the glaze combinations that I use. Two kiln firings typically take place in the electric kiln. Most of my work is low temperature fired (first firing at about 1900 degrees) and the art of glazing takes place between the two firings. The second firing temperature varies depending on the glazes used and in some instances a third lower temperature firing is required. More time is typically spent in finishing, glazing and firing than in throwing the pot. I also attempt to enhance my work by adding natural materials such as wood, shells, glass, and beads to the finished piece. Much of my work includes Chinese symbols as a point of focus and I will do this on Raku pots as well as electric kiln fired pots. I look for embellishments through texture and color especially in my electric kiln pieces.
Electric Kiln Fired Examples