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. The Raku family continues making their pottery in Chijiro’s tradition; the current master is Raku Kichizaemon XV.
Raku Pottery is created with a specific ceramic firing process that uses both fire and smoke to create unique patterns and designs. The piece is first bisque fired, and then it is glazed and undergoes a raku firing process. The firing process requires a special raku kiln that is fueled by propane and reaches temperatures of about 1,850°F (about 982°C).
In order to complete the firing process, the pottery must remain in the kiln for approximately 30 minutes. It is then removed from the kiln using specially designed raku tongs. While the raku pottery piece is still hot and glowing, it is placed inside a metal can full of combustible materials. The heat emitted from the pottery causes these materials to catch on fire.
After the materials inside the metal can catch on fire, a lid is placed over the can and the pottery is sealed inside. The piece is capable of withstanding these high temperatures and the fire within the can because it is made from a special type of clay that is capable of withstanding thermal shock. Traditional pottery clays, on the other hand, would crack from the drastic temperature changes.
As the fire consumes the oxygen within the can, it also draws the oxygen out of the pottery and its glaze. This process is called post fire reduction It this stage that creates the unique look of raku pottery. The resulting patterns and colours are unpredictable, as they are created through the natural process of oxygen removal.