"Raku Pottery Party"
May 4, 2011

Raku 2011

On the evening of May 4, 2011, the Valley Arts Alliance held their Third Annual Raku Pottery Party at Pat Garley's Arctic Fires Bronze in Palmer, Alaska.  The “party” was actually an informal workshop conducted by VAA artist Karen Lopez, who owns Still Waters Pottery in Palmer.  Karen is well known for her Raku pottery, and recently demonstrated the creation and firing of her Raku pottery at the annual “Valley Arts Alliance Art on Fire Iron Pour Art Fest" in June 2010.

The creation of Raku pottery requires both heat and smoke to create the unique patterns and designs.  Karen provided each participant with two vessels or pots of fired and unglazed ceramic ware, known as bisque.  The participants then decorated their vessel with a variety of glazes that Karen provided.  The vessels quickly dried and were then fired in one of Karen’s special Raku kilns.

After firing for approximately 30 minutes, the “red hot” vessel is placed inside a metal can full of combustible materials, such as newspapers.  This material immediately catches fire from the heat of the Raku vessel, and the metal can is then sealed with the “red hot” Raku vessel inside.

As the fire consumes the oxygen within the can, it also draws the oxygen out of the vessel and its glaze. This process, called post fire reduction, is responsible for the unique Raku look.  After about 15 minutes, the vessel is removed and placed in a bucket of cold water, which freezes the patterns that were created during the post fire reduction stage. The resulting patterns and colors that are created through the natural process of oxygen removal are completely unpredictable.

The workshop lasted about 3 hours, and at the conclusion of the workshop all the participants were able to take their unique creations home.