Figurative Raku - The Weber Studio
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- 1. Raku is a method of firing clay pottery that was developed by aKorean potter in the early 16th century and later brought to Japan by that potter. Traditional Japanese Raku pottery was composed of cups and bowlsthat were used in the Japanese tea ceremony. The term RAKU comes from the name of the Japanese tea masterSen Rikyu. The name and style has been past down through the family to the present, 15th generation, potter, Kichizaemon.
2. RAKU can be translated as enjoyment, happiness or comfort. RAKU firing was introduced into western ceramics in the early 20thcentury by Bernard Leach. Western RAKU was popularized in the United States by the potterPaul Soldner in the late 1950s. While styles of Raku differ, the basic elements of the firing remainthe same. 3. When RAKU was brought to England, Bernard Leach began to experiment with the process. During this experimentation, the process morphed into what is seen today as Western Raku. The experimentation continued when RAKU was brought to the United States. In Western RAKU, two types of glazes are most frequently used. One contains metallic oxides and powders. The second is formulated to shrink more rapidly than the clay shrinks. The crackle type of glaze is often either clear or white but may be most any color. 4. Metallic Glaze If a metallic glaze is used, whenthe object is removed from the kiln it is placed directly into a container filled with combustible materials. The container is sealed and the glaze begins to reduce, resulting in a metallic finish in coppers, golds, reds and blues.Crackle Glaze If the glaze that shrinks morerapidly than the clay is used, when the object is removed it is allowed to cool for a few moments. The cooling results in the cracking of the glaze. The lines where the glaze cracks or separates turn black in the firing process. 5. The RAKU artist first throws or hand builds the piece to be fired using aclay that is formulated to tolerate the high stress of the RAKU firing. The completed piece is allowed to slowly air dry. Once the piece is bone dry, glaze is carefully applied. The glazed object is then placed in a kiln that is heated very rapidly to atemperature of 1800 to 1900degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperature is reached, the kiln is opened and the piece isremoved while it is red hot. 6. If the piece was glazed with a metallic glaze, it is then placed in a metalcontainer filled with combustible material (paper, sawdust and straw are commonly used). When the combustible material begins to burn, the container is sealed. Once sealed, a reduction atmosphere is created. The burning fire consumes the oxygen in the container and then any oxygenin the glaze. This results in a metallic, and depending on the glaze formula, a lustroussurface where the piece was glazed. Any unglazed area of the piece turns black as a result of the clay absorbingthe smoke produced once the fire burns out. 7. If a crackle type glaze was applied to the piece, the piece is allowed to cool prior to placing it in a container. The cooling time allows the glaze to shrink and to crack. Once the cracking begins, the piece is places into container filled with combustible material. After the material erupts in flames, the container is sealed. When the fire dies out, the smoke will permeate the crakes inbetween the glaze causing the cracks to turn black. 8. Lifecasting is a process of making a replica of a portion of a live persons body. To create my final figurative RAKU sculptures, I start by making a negative mold on the body of the model. Once the model is posed, alginate, a natural substance similar to latex, is applied to the portion of the body being molded. An exact negative impression of the body is created in the alginate (down to the lines, creases and imperfection in the skin). Before the alginate sets, cotton fibers are embedded in the alginate. As the alginate is very flexible, a shell of plaster impregnated bandage (similar to that used to make a cast) is applied over the alginate. The shell adheres to the cotton fibers that were embedded in the alginate. 9. When dry, the plaster bandage shell and alginate liner are carefully removed from the model. To create the positive mold that is used in the sculpting of the final RAKU figure, a plaster based material is pored into the negative mold. Once the plaster sets, the negative mold is removed and the result is an exact replica of the part of the body that was initially molded. The positive mold in and of itself is considered by many to be a final sculpture and might be finished with many different surface treatments. I use the plaster positive as a mold for my clay sculptures by placing a large, thin slab of clay over the mold to obtain a basic shape for the sculpture. After setting the clay slab, I complete the sculpture by hand. 10. Original LifecastRaku Sculpture from Lifecast 11. Examples of RAKU Sculptures Created from Lifecasts 12. In addition to the sculptures created from Lifecasting, I sculpt smaller figures by hand from blocks of clay. My technique is a combination of hand building and carving. The basic shape and characteristics are created from soft clay. Most of these figures are sculpted to be flat in the back or front so they might be used as wall hangings, in frames or in shadow boxes. Texture might be added as the clay begins to harden. After the clay has hardened but is not fully dried, I begin to carve the final features into the sculpture. In some instances, I will hollow out the back of a sculpture and do a carving on the inside of the back of the piece. This image is typically not visible when the sculpture is displayed, it is intended as something just for the owner of the sculpture. 13. Examples of RAKU Sculptures Crafted from Clay Blocks 14. Figurative sculptures can be seen and purchased fromTheWeberStudio On Etsy www.etsy.com/TheWeberStudio?ref=search_shop_redirectFor Questions or Information, Contact us directly at: [email protected]