Sunday, March 5, 2017

Great Raku Workshop Results

Today I spent most of the day in a raku workshop run by Tony Wilson.  It was a really fun day, despite waking up to a couple inches of snow...

...and dreading that the workshop might be cancelled, and then enduring freezing cold snow and rain all day.

There were lots of challenges today, due to the weather, and a number of pieces cracked or blew up in the kiln, mostly from not drying enough after glazing, even though we preheated them all on the top of the kiln.  Thankfully, none of my 3 pieces exploded, and they all came through the process spectacularly.

Starting at the result, here is the first pot, a pot of many colours :
A) I knew this one would take me some time to glaze (which it did!) so I had already pre-taped the lines on the pot ahead of the workshop.  Here are a few process photos :
I am really pleased with the range of colours, contrast of matte to shiny, and iridescence.

This pot was thrown from 2600 g of WSO clay.  For the records, the raku glazes I used were : 881 Oxblood (that bright red), Yellow underglaze covered with Clear Crackle glaze (I think I need to apply the glaze thicker), #5 Red Bronze Lustre (probably my favourite glaze, it is the green crackled one), PG816 Flame Blue, PG803 Copper Penny, and the two glazes brought in by a fellow student Marsha : Burgundy Matte and Molly Blanding.  I'm not absolutely certain which is which, but pleased all around with the result, and anyhow there are huge variation in the results from one firing to the next, so I don't try too hard to anticipate the exact colours and textures I'll achieve.

The second one, which got a lot of attention, was this little dragon hatchling :
B) I was very pleased that he made it through the raku firing in one piece, as this was created in two parts, from Big White sculptural clay.  The glazes I used were #5 Red Bronze Lustre for the eyes, #2 Copper Red for the face (which turned a very beautiful green and then goldish green), and Clear Crackle glaze for the egg.

Here it is from a few different angles :

And the third is this pierced candle holder.  I like to make pierced vessels for raku, to reduce the temptation to use them to hold water or food, as neither is advised for raku work, as the clay (which was fired only to 1860 degrees or Cone 06) is not considered vitrified enough to be food safe.
3) This candle holder was thrown from 1600 g WSO clay, trimmed and pierced.  I then taped it off to be able to use a pattern with a few different glazes.  In this case, it was the 881 Oxblood at the top (love it!), with Copper Penny along the top (triangles), Clear Crackle in the middle, and #5 Red Bronze Lustre on the bottom.

It is interesting that the Copper Penny went so shiny copper this time.  I'm not sure I remember so much copper in the past.  As did the Red Bronze Lustre.  It is part shiny copper, and part of the crackly green which I have come to expect from it.

Here are a few more angles on this piece, including one pale process photo :

As always, there was lots of fire and smoke and excitement, and I'd like to share a few photos I took, of the process.  Think of a strong smoky campfire smell as you look at these, and a cold damp wind, and you will get a pretty good sense of today :
Here, the pieces (none of mine in this batch) have reached 1860 F (we actually went to 1870 F), the gas turned off, the top lifted, and someone is ready with tongs to remove the first piece.

The pieces (this one is my dragon in the egg still red hot inside) are placed one by one onto a "nest" of newspaper and sawdust, and then a metal bucket with newspapers strips and more sawdust is place on top.  Since many of the buckets had holes in the bottom (not to mention in the sides!), a fire-proof top was placed on them (something like a kiln shelf material).

Somewhere in the first 5 minutes, the pots were "burped".  That is, tipped up, so the smoldering contents would spontaneously fire up again, or most of the time they were helped with the blow torch.  Then they were covered again, to wait for an overall period of 15 minutes.  Then they were carried with tongs to an area to be hosed down with cold water.

Here both my candle holder and my dragon hatchling are being hosed down, and the brilliant shiny and somewhat iridescent colors are starting to show on the dragon.

Finally, when the pieces are cool enough to handle, they are carried inside, where we all compare notes about what glazes we used, and unless we have good notes, we're usually not sure how we came to the results we did, but most of us were very surprised and pleased.  Other than those whose pieces exploded in the kiln.

I am so much looking forward to a future raku workshop again.  I think I'm signed up for one in August, if I remember correctly.  But I'll join any which I can fit into my schedule.  It is so much fun, and I can't imagine much better ways to spend a day, even in the rain.

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