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About Raku Pottery
What is “raku”? Raku ware is a style of pottery developed in the 16th century in Japan. It was created by a tile maker who was working on the palace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who also made a number of tea sets using a pottery style that involved using low heat and then hand-shaping the product. Soon people wanted to buy raku urns, tea sets, and other pottery items for their homes, not only because of the connection to Toyotomi, but for the beauty and artistry of pieces done in this style. “Raku” itself means “ease,” “comfort,” or “enjoyment,” and the Raku style of ceramics certainly promotes these feelings.
Our Raku pottery style differs from traditional and most American Raku pottery. Traditional Raku pottery doesn’t use post fire reduction and relies on the rugged spontaneous results of this extreme way to fire pots. Most American Raku pottery has centered on the metallic effects from reduced copper carbonate and other oxides to get rainbow flashing and a matte or semi-matte surface. We use the Raku process for the carbonized glaze crazing and black clay achieved with post fire reduction. Our large range of classic and contemporary colors is also unique. This is achieved by very careful attention to glaze chemistry, application, and firing, which will be discussed in the following pages. Our overriding philosophy has been to use the random crazing in juxtaposition to calm and simple forms. We strive to achieve a near flawless glaze surface, which also flies in the face of other Raku styles. This approach allows our raku pieces to fit into a wide range of decorative environments. Raku pottery and decorative ceramics hav been the focus of Dodero Studio Ceramics since 1970.
Raku Pottery Workshops
Workshop: Raku Glazing and Firing by John Dodero
Dates to be announced. Please contact me if you are interested
Location: Dodero Studio–Jacksonville, Oregon
10 people max.
Workshop will cover Raku glaze preparation, application and firing:
” Glaze calculation and materials
” Use of glaze stains and oxides
” Glaze troubleshooting; bring a glaze you are having problems with.
” Kiln set up and firing
John Dodero has worked with the Raku process since the early 1970s and has developed a wide range of transparent and opaque glazes with consistent and distinct crazing pattern.
Visit our Facebook Group page for workshop pictures.
Contact for information or registration
or phone 541-899-8285
From Robert Piepenburg About Raku Pottery
To fully understand raku pottery, we cannot embrace one phase but must look for kinship with all its phases. One way of defining raku, other than as a type of pottery preferred by Japanese tea masters, is to say that it is a low-temperature technique of firing porous, low bisque fired pottery, usually bearing a lead glaze (most American style Raku pottery uses no lead, as do mine). The technique generally involves a placement of pottery in a preheated kiln with tongs and removal from the kiln, again with tongs, while the pot is still glowing hot (around 1000 degrees Centigrade). One story explaining the introduction of tongs into the raku firing process centers around one of Japan’s many natural disasters. During the frenzied rebuilding, Korean potters in Japan were called upon to produce enormous quantities of roof tile. In their haste, they began to use tongs to remove the still-hot tiles from the kiln, and discovered that the tiles did not crack or break. The clay’s ability to withstand this shocking move from the hot kiln to the cool air was attributed to the high sand content in the clay. Japanese potters had long since claimed most of the good clay deposits, forcing the Koreans to work sub-standard clay containing large proportions of sand. It is known that earthenware clay bodies were used exactly as they came from the natural clay deposits. It is very possible that a raku clay body may have been discovered in this way.
With the exception of a few contemporary potters, the raku pottery of Japan, particularly the tea bowls, are usually hand-built pieces. The hand building of raku is traditional; raku pottery was valued and favored for its tasteful unpretentiousness, which is associated with and achieved by hand building. The history of raku pottery goes back almost four hundred years, but even today there are Japanese potters who wheel form tea bowls and then hand form the same bowl when the clay is leather hard. This hand forming encouraged the valued irregularity of shape. Tea bowls are seldom made perfectly round. They are usually designed to conform to being held in both hands; since that is the way they are normally held when used for drinking tea. To achieve this, some potters take the not quite dry, leather-hard bowls and gently toss them into the air, catching them in both hands. The top edges of the bowls are undulated so that they feel pleasant to the lips when the bowls are held to the mouth. The base of the bowls is usually left unglazed, exposing the clay from which the bowl was made. The only decoration, except for the soft thick glaze, is the interplay of the natural colors and contours. The shapes of raku tea bowls are infinite. The shorter, flatter bowls with large surface diameters cool the tea and are used in the winter to retard the rapid cooling of the tea. Hand-made raku bowls are often formed from a lump of clay that is pushed, pulled and worked by the fingers into a crude-looking mug shape. When leather hard, the form is then held upside down, and a foot rim is carved from the thick base with a bamboo knife, using as few knife strokes as possible. The foot rim is often made from only one stroke with the knife. Is the aim of the potter to put the essence of his entire being into the forming of the foot? The knife marks and the foot are prized because it is said that the maker of the bowl can be understood through these marks.
A Short History
No one knows exactly how and where the use of lead glazes and tongs first developed in the firing of raku pottery. Lead glazes were used in Egypt and Persia as long ago as 500 B.C.E. In Japan, low-fired earthenware with lead glaze was made in the government kilns at Mara for use in the imperial court in the seventh century A.D. It is not known if tongs were used for removing this ceramic ware from the kiln. In form and color, the green-and-white lead-glazed Nara ware resembled the ware of the Chinese T’ang Dynasty. These pieces were frequently mistaken for Chinese imports. In the twelfth century the use of lead glazes disappeared in Japan, and they did not reappear until the sixteenth century.
Sen-no Rikyu (1521-1591 A.D.), a disciple and student of Jo-o, perfected the philosophy of tea and carried it to its zenith. Rikyu is considered Japan’s greatest Tea Master. As a close friend and retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the shogun—or supreme commander—of the army of Japan, Rikyu reformed the rules of the tea ceremony. This completed its Japanization to suit the ordinary people and surroundings of Japan. Wabi is the natural expression of feelings that are neither ostentatious nor imposing, and its spirit is the essence of the tea ceremony. A Buddhist might use the word compassion to describe the feeling of the ritual. An occidental might use the word love (of another human being) or the empathy for leaves floating in the wind.