Raku is a sixteenth century Japanese pottery firing process which is closely associated with Zen Buddhism and the Tea Ceremony. “Raku for me is a way of staying connected with my work during the firing process.”
Bob’s raku is fired in a small gas kiln to about 1900 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the proper temperature is reached the kiln is opened and the glowing glazed pots are carefully pulled from the kiln using metal tongs. The hot pots are placed in a nest of hard wood chips; upon contact the heat of the pot ignites the wood and the pots begin to cool in the smoky fire. The pots eventually are completely covered with wood chips and the mounds of wood covered pots smolder. Occasionally the mounds are uncovered exposing the still very hot pot to the cool air and then they are recovered with dry wood chips; by doing this a crackle pattern forms in the glaze surface, this pattern becomes very back from the carbon of the burning wood. The crackle pattern is only on the glaze surface and does not damage the pot.
Bob also fires raku with matte glazes. The matte fired raku is fired to the same temperature and also cools in hard wood chips. “I’ve learned through trial and error that by dampening the wood chips I can influence the color of the glazes. I dampen the wood with a specific amount of water per five gallon bucket of wood chips.” The matte glazed pots are removed from the kiln in a similar manner as previously described, but rather than exposing the hot pots to the cool air these pots are cooled in the dampened wood for about a half an hour. Upon uncovering they are sprayed with water which quickly cools the pots and freezes the color of the matte glazes. These matte pieces are often fired multiple times in this manner.” I believe that in multiple firings of matte glazes richer colors are obtained.”
“My raku firings are done outside during the heat of the summer as well as cold of the winter it all makes me feel alive and involved with my pots.”