Making pots for Raku days

GUIDELINES:

  • Students attending weekly classes will be able to make pots for the raku days during normal class time if they choose. You will be provided with the correct raku clay to make 3-4 pots.
  • Those not currently attending classes may book a private session to do some preparatory making for the raku days (See here on our website for details of privately arranged tailor-made one-to-one and group classes) or you may buy biscuit pots supplied by Andy to decorate and fire on the day.
  • Privately arranged making sessions should be made no later than 4 weeks prior to your raku date – you will need to book 2 hours to make the 3-4 pots that you may expect to need for the raku firing
  • Only pots made with our own supplied raku clay will be acceptable for our raku firings.  The firing process puts extreme thermal stress on the pots so we use a much grittier and less plastic clay than normal  – this helps reduce the risk of pots cracking.  A number of pots by different students are packed into the kiln together so we have to be confident that the clay is suitable in order to minimise the risk of damage to others’ pots.
  • We expect to be able to get around 3 – 4 pots decorated and fired per person on the raku days, depending partly on sizes of pots, number of participants etc.
  • Any decorated pots which cannot be fitted into the raku kiln can be fired in our electric kiln at a later date if wanted. The raku glazes fire much ‘cleaner’ in the electric kiln so will not look quite the same as if they had been raku fired but are still very lovely fired that way.
  • Pots are lifted from kiln to combustion chamber and from combustion chamber into a bucket of water where quick cooling preserves reduction and carbonisation effects.  Quick cooling is a danger point for the pots as they may crack from thermal shock or be blown apart by the pressure of steam trapped in cavities. For this reason we advise that pots should have adequate openings so steam can be safely released.
  • As with all pots that we make, it is important to have an even clay thickness throughout, but this is even more crucial when making raku ware.
  • Joining technique (scratch, wiggle, smooth!) will need to be very thorough to ensure that pots are robust enough for raku firing.
  • Aim to make simple upright vessel forms or fairly simple sculptural forms.
  • Too much complexity in the form will increase the risk of breakages.  Appendages such as handles or other projections should be sturdy and kept close to the form – long, fiddly, delicate projections will break when being lifted with tongs.
  • Wide open bowls / shallow dishes are more vulnerable to cracking and more difficult to remove safely from the kiln as well as greedy for space in the kiln so we would ask that you keep forms fairly compact.  Make pots taller rather than wider if possible to maximise the use of space in the kiln.  
  • Given that raku firing is more risky to the pot than conventional firing, you might prefer to make 2-4 smaller pieces rather than invest too much time in one large piece. For those who wish to work large, however, we suggest a maximum height of 28cm.
  • Rims should not be too thin – where rims project outwards they are more likely to be chipped by the tongs.
  • If you would like extra pots, Andy will supply some of his own hand-made and thrown biscuit fired pots which you will be able to buy and decorate.