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19 June 2007 @ 06:05 am
I wonder where that fish has gone?  
Last Friday afternoon I had a fun adventure with wet-fire raku. Otherwise known as ball of clay to finished pot in an hour or less. Charlie’s Kids Clay Camp class had been enjoying raku firing on their last day and he was kind enough to let me join in.

I took 10 minutes to create my little fishey, seen here slathered in raku glaze.

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Western style raku pottery is created by firing the pieces in a gas kiln, often a specially designed raku kiln fueled by the same propane tank one would use on their gas grill.

So then we took Mr. Fishey and set him on fire!

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After 20 – 30 minutes of firing the pieces are removed from the kiln while still red hot – proper gloves and long tongs are definitely a requirement. The propane fueled kilns can reach temps in excess of 1800 degrees F, so one should be careful. Charlie had set up cones and tape to keep the kids at a safe distance.

You can see the poor fishies screaming in the kiln ”Help! Help us!”

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”Nooooooo! Not the TONGS!”

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The still glowing raku pottery piece is then immediately placed inside a metal can full of combustible materials. In our case the trash can was full of sawdust, though just about any combustible organic material will work. The heat emitted from the red hot pot causes these materials to catch on fire.

So then we set Mr. Fishey on fire a second time

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After the materials inside the metal can catch on fire, a lid is placed over the can and the raku pottery is sealed inside. This provides a reducing atmosphere for the glaze to form, as the oxygen in the can is used up and carbon is formed. This lack of oxygen is what brings out the nifty metallic finish that raku is known for, because it allows the metals in the glaze to be seen in an unoxidized form.

The final step in our adventure was to quench the pieces in water to halt the reduction process.

Charlie let Mr. Fishey go for a swim

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I ended up with a fun raku piece. Mr. Fishey’s bright copper body and metallic green and blue accents on the fins are pretty darned spiffy.

Here’s Mr. Fishey in all his glory – he’s much cuter and oh so shiny in person.

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And it went wherever I did go.

-the redhead-

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tedeisensteintedeisenstein on June 19th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
Where did Charlie get that raku kiln? Or did he make it himself (in which case, can I have the plans)?
-the redhead-theredhead on June 23rd, 2007 05:32 pm (UTC)
Charlie made his own kiln, based on what he needed it to do. There aren't any plans - they just made it.

The summer Pottery Making Illustrated is on raku. It has a nice article and plans for a fiber kiln. If you'd like a copy, they sent Charlie extras.

-the redhead-
Brown Eyed Girlbrowneyedgirl65 on June 19th, 2007 06:03 pm (UTC)
Very cool. i like how the fish look like they have teeth ;-). Was there a mould to make the fish from?
-the redhead-theredhead on June 23rd, 2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
Nope - I just made him up. There's sort of a plan - start with a cone, make the mouth, add the fins. But they are all really up to the person making them.

It was fun stuff. I plan on making some more ceramic fishies (raku & regular glaze), as well as some in other media (felted, knit, etc.)

-the redhead-