What is raku ?
Raku was first developed by Korean potters under Japanese rule in the 17th century. Raku potters traditionally produced bowls for Japanese ceremonies. It was more a philosophy meaning « pleasure »,and « enjoyment ». When refering to the philosophy, we write Raku, when refering to the technique, we write raku.
Raku is a smoke-fire technique : Our western version of raku focuses more on the pottery technique. It is characterised by the sudden heat shock. It is the process of taking pots while they are still glowing red from the kiln, and placing them into containers filled with combustible materials (sawdust, newspapers, dried leaves, etc…)
A reduction process begins once the red pots are put into the container. The carbonaceous atmosphere reacts and affects the glazes and gives unique effects and surfaces to the pieces. Some of these effects include metallic and crackled glazes surfaces and black unglazed clay.
On the contrary, an oxidation process can be obtained. The wares can be left outside the container, more abruptly, you can spray areas of wares with water or even dive them into water to stop the reduction process completely.
The drawback of raku is that the wares are somewhat fragile and porous.
The advantages are the rapid pace of firing (with reaching the temperature in 15-20 minutes), the enjoyment while baking, the « happiness of hazard ».
What is ceramic ?
The word ‘ceramic’ comes from the Greek term « keramos ». This term designates inorganic non-metallic materials which form through the action of heat.
Clays are the most important of these materials. Depending on the firing temperature, we can obtain more-or-less porous ceramics, the names of which will differ depending upon the firing process used. For example, we speak of glazed ceramics when the temperature reached is around 950°C; the result in that case is somewhat porous. However, stoneware ends up less porous as we reach a firing temperature of 1280°C.
Glaze is a glassy coating applied to pottery.
I add oxides to the glaze to affect the appearance of the pieces being fired.
For example, when using iron, the glazes fire brown in an oxiding atmosphere, but green in a reducing atmosphere (which is the opposite process, the atmosphere is limited in oxygen).
The other oxides I mainly use are cobalt, pewter, and copper. I either use in isolation or mix them.
I apply glaze by trailing or spraying, depending on the effect I am aiming for.
One of my peculiarities is to print my pieces. To do so, I use various tiny tools, like kingpins, caps, obscure objects which represent something precious to me.
The tools the ceramist uses speak of him, of his style, his personality, his discoveries… !