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Dave Thomas | profile | all galleries >> The Clay Pages >> Raku Firing at MCCC tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Raku Firing at MCCC

With Ye Olde Photographer's usual bad timing, he missed the actual firing and the transfer of the hot pieces into containers for reduction. But at least we get to see some results. The work was removed, still smoking and covered with ash from the crumpled newspaper and sawdust used for reduction. At this stage, some work was quenched in water to bring down the temperature, then the smoke and ash deposits were scrubbed off to reveal the magic.

On the following week, better timing and more activity provided a chance to see and photograph most of the various steps over the course of two back-to-back firings; lots of exciting stuff to see.

And on December 8th we got just a few shots of activity on the kiln deck.

The raku process starts with bisque fired pieces similar to other methods; clay bodies more tolerant of thermal shock may be used. Glazes are applied and dried, then the work goes into the raku kiln. The kilns tend to be relatively simple. The work may often be observed through vents in the top, but pyrometric cones may also be used to check firing temperature. The work is raised to a temperature where the glaze has melted and flowed. Unlike other firings, at this point, the kiln is opened and the red hot pieces are removed and placed in containers surrounded by combustible material - sawdust, paper, leaves or pine needles. The material ignites and the carbon content reduces many of the glaze oxides. The containers are immediately closed and allowed to cool while the work is exposed to the resulting reduction atmosphere and is in direct contact with ash from the combustibles.

After the pieces have cooled substantially, they may be removed, after which they may be quenched in water or misted with water. Eventually the pieces are scrubbed with mild abrasive and scouring pads, bringing out the often brilliant irridescent effects of glaze being reduced all the way to pure metallic elements. Copper compounds are particularly useful for these effects.

In the transfer from kiln to reduction, the need to work quickly, combined with the need to handle the work very carefully and the hazardous temperatures involved, requires a good deal of coordination and attention. At its peak, the process is quite exciting to watch, let alone participate in.

Fall 2012: There is a gallery of ConEd raku fire activity in the Dave's ceramics section.

Small Bailey Kiln at 1900F
Small Bailey Kiln at 1900F
Raku Ready
Raku Ready
Ready to Unload
Ready to Unload
Into Reduction
Into Reduction
Raku Vase
Raku Vase
Spraying with Alcohol
Spraying with Alcohol
Raku Kiln Open
Raku Kiln Open
Opening Containers
Opening Containers
One Artist's Pieces
One Artist's Pieces
More Pieces
More Pieces
Piece as Removed
Piece as Removed
Scrubbing Begins
Scrubbing Begins
Metallic Glow Revealed
Metallic Glow Revealed
Final Cleanup
Final Cleanup
Vase
Vase
Bowl
Bowl
Flower Arranger
Flower Arranger
Vase
Vase
Another Day
Another Day
Checking Cones
Checking Cones
Ready to Unload
Ready to Unload
Yes, They're Hot!
Yes, They're Hot!
Ready for Reduction
Ready for Reduction
Into the Can
Into the Can
Hot Cargo
Hot Cargo
Another Hot One
Another Hot One
Lottsa Smoke
Lottsa Smoke
Checking a Piece
Checking a Piece
Yes, It's Hot
Yes, It's Hot
Adding Sawdust
Adding Sawdust
Loading Second Batch
Loading Second Batch
Second Batch
Second Batch
Got a Light?
Got a Light?
Flame Appears
Flame Appears
Closing Up
Closing Up
Another Piece Out
Another Piece Out
Out of Reduction
Out of Reduction
Scrubbing Earlier Piece
Scrubbing Earlier Piece
Peering in the Can
Peering in the Can
A Vase within Sight
A Vase within Sight
Lifting a Bowl
Lifting a Bowl
1st Look at White Crackle Glaze
1st Look at White Crackle Glaze
Large Vase Cooling
Large Vase Cooling
Large Vase
Large Vase
Shallow Teapot, Etc.
Shallow Teapot, Etc.
Temperature Rising
Temperature Rising
Vase, Etc.
Vase, Etc.
Another Piece
Another Piece
Cat - Bubbling
Cat - Bubbling
Small Piece
Small Piece
Bigger Bubbles
Bigger Bubbles
Bottom - Shallow Teapot
Bottom - Shallow Teapot
Pair of Pears
Pair of Pears
Bubbles Receding
Bubbles Receding
Teapot Cleaned Up
Teapot Cleaned Up
Bowl Cleaned
Bowl Cleaned
Bowl Interior
Bowl Interior
Cat - Glaze Smoothed Out
Cat - Glaze Smoothed Out
Up We Go!
Up We Go!
One Hot Bowl
One Hot Bowl
The Cat Goes into Reduction
The Cat Goes into Reduction
Checking
Checking