Raku is a Japanese word that can be translated as enjoyment, happiness, or comfort. In 1580, the potter Chijiro is thought to be the first to produce this form of ware. He developed a low-fire pottery process in which he placed ware directly into a red-hot kiln, then once the glazes had melted, removing the ware from the still red-hot kiln and allowing the pottery to cool outside the kiln.

Modern Raku is best described as a firing process in which the pot is taken up to approximately 1800 degrees in a propane fueled kiln. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour or more, depending on whether the kiln is already hot. At this point, in western raku, the pot is removed from the fire and placed into a container filled with combustible material. This can be newspaper, leaves, shavings, hay – some people use seaweed and combinations of other combustibles – resulting in a lively fire. The container is then closed up. This causes the atmosphere inside the container to be “reduced,” or starved of oxygen. This reduced atmosphere causes the clay to turn from white to black, and it also causes the glazes to change color – notably copper turns from green to red, purple, magenta and sometimes orange.

There are several variations on the Raku firing technique. At Pig Pen Pottery we are interested in the following: Raku Western style, Obvara Raku, Horsehair Raku, and Pit Fire.

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