In the past few months, I've posted pictures of some of our pottery here on the blog and on our web site, now here is a little info about it.
All our raku vessels, are individually formed, carved, brush-glazed, and fired, using an American variation of the Japanese firing technique known as raku.
A glazed pot is heated to approximately 1825 degrees Fahrenheit. Its then taken from the kiln while its still red-hot, gently placed in a bed of pine shavings, and then covered (as you can see in this picture, we use a wheelbarrow or on other occasions in a metal wash tub as our pine shavings receptacle). When the oxygen in the air surrounding the pot is depleted by the flame, the flame then looks to the glaze for more oxygen molecules to consume. A chemical reaction may take place in the glaze, causing spontaneous and random flashes of color and metallic lustre. As the pot cools, a random crackling (or crazing) of the glaze occurs as the clay and the glaze expand and contract at different rates. What also happens is the carbon from the burning shavings fuses to all the unglazed surfaces and cracks in the glaze, turning them black. The piece, still hot, is then extracted from its bed of shavings and is quenched (or rapidly cooled) with water. Doing so not only cools the pot to the touch, but sets the colors before theglazes have a chance to reoxidize. Some of the results can be quite spectacular and its easy to understand the allure of pottery fired in this way. No two peices ever turn out completely the same and every one, in its own way, is one-of-a-kind.
The majority of stoneware clay we use for our functional pottery is from abundant native Alabama clay deposits, usually found within just an hour's drive of the studio right here in Baldwin Country. The deposit Lowell working on here is right along a local roadside. The clay that seems to work best is whitish or, better yet, almost a bubble gum color. It fires the highest and has the least amount of impurities which is perfect for durable functional ware. Our functional pottery is individually formed, most of it on a potter's wheel, is individually decorated, and then high-fired in a propane fueled gas kiln to approximately 2400 degrees Fahrenheit.
I'll have to cover in future posts some of the primitive-fired pieces we do as well as the ongoing journey of the building of our small wood kiln using recycled materials...