There is a lot of fire in my life. I'm not really sure how this came to be, I am an earth sign all the way. I like my feet firmly planted on the ground. I like digging in the dirt in the garden and I love working with pottery clay. Both are very grounding activities.
Pottery needs all the elements in play : clay, water, air and lastly and most importantly, fire.
Appropriately I found this first paragraph on Euan Craig's blog today. Euan is an Australian living in Japan, making his living from pottery. His kiln was ruined in the earthquake and this post I am lifting the quote from, shows the rebuilding of his kiln:
"Pottery is pottery by virtue of fire; without fire it is mere clay. A potter is thus a potter by virtue of fire, and a potter without a kiln is no potter at all. Last year I watched as the seven tonnes of my kiln danced like bamboo in the breeze. It has taken fourteen months, but I am a potter once more!"
I found these old photos of a group raku firing we had at the old studio where I worked. If you ever have the opportunity to watch or participate in a raku firing, do take it.
Raku is exciting and immediate. Unlike a regular kiln which takes many hours to complete the process, raku is relatively quick. You see the "kiln" in the first photo, a retrofitted steel drum. The pot being held with tongs is red hot from the fire and is then plunged into straw or newspaper where they will smoke and blacken (whatever is not glazed will be black). The next step is to plunge the piece into water. You can hear the crackle of the glaze. On the right photo my friend Dale (in the red shirt) is cleaning his pot once it was cool enough to handle. There are fantastic metallic glazes in raku.
In this photo my candlesticks are being placed on straw. More straw will cover them. Then they will get a bath.
These are the same candlesticks in the photo below.
For a laugh, I included the first raku pot I ever made, maybe the first pot ever, from the very first class I ever threw clay, * that little pot in the front. This was from almost 30 years ago, when the instructor decided it would be fun for our last class to raku fire everything we had left over, in a drum kiln in the parking lot. The class on the whole was not very sure about the process and had little time to decide how to glaze their pots, so I chose to go with a very primitive design. That's how the process was described to us, primitive: clay and water, air and lastly,
Find more Fire here.
(I occasionally use this for a small plant. Raku is not water tight and not food safe)