Saturday, 8 September 2012

Are these Raku?

Well, another day, up at the crack of dawn, drive to another venue and set out my stall.  No promised electricity, so lugging the lights and power cables up the stairs was a waste of time and they all have to be lugged back because there is so little space to store them.

Satisfied that the display looks good, flowers plucked from the garden, still with the morning dew, are artfully arranged and it's time to check out the neighbours and get to know some new faces.
It's around this point that the doubts about doing this job start to become a reality. Am I really going to have to stand amongst people selling bought in mugs, tea towels and aprons all day, and so cheap? I would imagine that the creative hand touches them for the first time to get them out of the box from the manufacturer. And assembled jewellery with bought in beads by the boat load. Ah well, the show must go on but by lunch time having received only a few "Love your work" and "We might be back" things don't look too promising.
The pile of mugs is going down and so is the pile of tea towels. The girl with the dichroic glass pendants has not stopped wrapping either. It's about this point that the first ceramic student appears and wants all your glaze recipes, firing methods and as they haven't got a kiln yet, could you fire their work for them.
When someone asks if the pots are Raku, you finally know that this was a big mistake and staying at home and mowing the grass or cleaning out the chicken run might have been the better option.

When someone else asks "Are they Raku" The brain freezes momentarily, and just before you clasp them by the throat, it thaws and very politely one gives the best reasons why they could not possibly be any form of Raku.

And what do you mean by Raku?  Is that true Raku? Taking a white hot pot from the kiln after a couple of days of firing with wood and plunging it into water to get those beautiful black glazes beloved by the Tea masters or is it the garden party stuff where you buy a ready made bisque fired vessel, lather it with some noxious glaze slop, whilst someone else heats it up quickly with a gas torch and plunges the whole thing into a bin full of sawdust.
When the foul black fog disappears, it's plunged into water and you scrub it to reveal the final article in all it's bling and you go home clutching your prize, smelling like a smoked Herring.

I'm not a big fan of Raku, I admire the work of Tim Andrews, but do I want something I can't use, that fades and re oxidises and would poison me if I ate from it?

So for the record, no madam, they are all fired in a wood fuelled kiln to around 1300, cooled slowly and will stay that way or until the cat knocks them over at which time they become grog.

Kiln dashboard!
In anticipation of a half way decent show at Wirksworth, I fired the kiln earlier this week so that there was some new work to put out. Firing number 14 proved uneventful, apart from not having enough pots and having to load a few re -fires, it all went along as previous firings. It did not rain for a change, and it was hot and tiring. Cone ten took forever to fall at the bottom of the kiln, but the worry was needless and the results were pleasing, with a couple of big bottles that are the best for some time.

I still have to check them all over, clean off the wadding, but they are sitting on the table in the dining room, whilst I do a sort of post mortem, looking at how the glazes run and mingle. Was the glaze thick enough, which combinations worked the best and so it goes.
Tomorrow is another day and it's back to the Town Hall at Wirksworth for another day explaining what it is we do that does not involve sawdust  and smoking fish or drinking my tea from a mass produced mug with a scribbly drawing of hearts on it.

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