On Saturday 25 September, the Ceramicus 2021 exhibition opened at the Allen Gallery in Alton. The exhibition, running until Sunday 31 October, is free to visit and showcases works from 10 local potters and a sculptor, who form the Ceramicus group.
Here, Ceramicus potter Nigel Hobbs explains the Raku firing technique and gives us a sneak preview of some of his works in the exhibition, which are all for sale.
Raku is a technique of firing pots, originating in Japan in the 16th century. Works are rapidly fired, removed from the kiln when glowing hot and then placed in a container with combustible materials, creating particular colours, textures and metallic oxides. Bernard Leach was responsible for introducing Raku to the western world at the beginning of the 20th century. Western Raku is a different entity to the Japanese and really began to be developed with Paul Soldner’s experiments in the USA in the 1960s.
Below is an example of how Raku firing is completed to achieve a stunning end result!
The pot is first biscuit fired to around 980˚.
If the pot is to be decorated with some areas unglazed then those areas are first masked off with material such as wax (which will burn off in the firing) or, in this case, easily removable tape.
The work is then glazed with a low firing Raku glaze and, if decorated as noted above, the tape is then removed.
Once the glaze is completely dry, the piece is placed in a gas fired Raku kiln and heated until the glaze is fully melted and shiny. This can take up to 30 – 45 minutes.
The red hot work is then removed from the kiln and, after leaving a few seconds for the glaze to ‘set’, it is placed in a bin of, in this case, sawdust. The work is then covered with more sawdust and the bin covered with a lid.
By sealing the hot pot (covered in sawdust) in the lidded bin, the sawdust burns where it adjoins the pot. This change in temperature and makes the glaze crack and sending carbon into the cracks and onto the unglazed areas. After an hour or so the lid is removed from the bin revealing a blackish pot.
When sufficiently cold enough to handle, the pot can now have all the surface carbon scrubbed off.
Below is the finished ‘Zebra’ pot (with a larger relative).
These pieces, and many others, will be on show in the Ceramicus 2021 exhibition in the Allen Gallery in Alton until Sunday 31 October 2021. .