Tea bowl with crane design, raku ware by Ryōnyū (Raku IX), 1810–38
You may have heard that Deepend Ceramics will be getting a Raku kiln this year, so we thought we’d share some history, trivia and techniques to help you prepare to join one of our Raku parties.
Originating in 16th century, Japan, Raku (translated as ‘pleasure’ or ‘enjoyment’) is a firing process that embraces novelty, potential failure, and happy accidents. Bernard Leach was the first Briton to promote Raku in the UK back in 1922. In the 1960s, American potter Paul Soldner first introduced the reduction firing techniques now known as Western Raku.
Raku was embraced by Zen Buddhist monks because it emblematised many of the tenets of their beliefs, including the unexpected, relinquishing control and impermanence.
Rakuware is traditionally handbuilt rather than thrown.
There is no special glaze or glazing technique in Raku, although heavily grogged clays are better because they can withstand thermal shock.
In Western Raku, works are glazed and rapidly heated in a kiln. Once red-hot, the works are pulled from the kiln and plunged into combustible material. This new environment causes chemical changes to create spontaneous patterns and textures. Because Raku firings are so exciting, it’s done as a party with participants and viewers gathering together to witness the dynamic changes on the body of the works.
So if you’re interested in exploring this technique, keep looking here to find out when we are hosting a Raku party in the future.
(Photograph: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Leslie Prince Salzman (M.2007.7.2); www.lacma.org)