Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Raku beads

So what is raku?  It is a traditional Japanese firing technique when glazed, bisque fired ceramics is taken to its firing temperature very quickly.    This produces a characteristic crazed quality to a glaze and lustrous effects to copper glazes.  The hot work can be left uncovered to oxidize or quickly smothered in a combustible material, such as sawdust, to reduce the work.  The clay we use for raku is 'open' so that it can withstand the termal shock of the firing and cooling process.  I fire to 980 degrees Celsius in a small, old electric kiln and reduce in sawdust in recycled food tins and old enamelware.

Red hot and ready to be removed from the kiln.  I am always very careful when opening the kiln as a lot of heat escape when the lid is removed.  I also have buckets of water nearby and wear long heat resistant gloves, leather apron and glasses.  Making most of the heat by drying beads  under the kiln.

Beads being reduced in sawdust in recycled food tins.  Sawdust firing should always be done outside as it generates a lot of smoke.  I leave the beads in the tins until there's no smoke escaping from the tins.

And here they are - raku fired beads from Earthbutter Studio.  Next step will be to clean the beads with  dishwashing liquid and a green scrubby to get rid of sawdust debris.
Raku is exciting with its spontaneous immediacy and suits me 100% as I like things to happen quickly.  Through many trials and errors I have found easier ways and shortcuts to fire beads successfully.  Results are often unexpected and sometimes disappointing but in most cases, delightful!
Earthbutter raku bead set for sale in my Etsy Shop




6 comments:

  1. Such an interesting process and great results. So happy to meet someone from South Africa!
    Diana

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    1. Thank you. Yes, I also enjoy meeting people from all over the world and they're only a click away - its amazing how internet has changed the world into one global village. So nice to meet people with the same interests as me.
      Desiree
      x

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  2. How very interesting! I have never had a kiln & have thought of getting one for PMC. I took 3 class & love the beautiful silver things you can create. But, I already confessed about my mess & the last thing I need is a LARGE/Expensive tool like a Kiln until I KNOW I would use it more than once in awhile! Thanks for visiting & after vacation I can assure you there will be a HUGE clean up going on. Charlene

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    1. I was also tempted to try PMC but decided that I already have more than enough to do! I'll stay with good old ceramic clay, it took me years to master the medium and I am comfortable in my space. Enjoy your vacation.

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  3. I love those beads, and seeing the process is VERY cool.

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  4. Thanks, its so much fun doing raku and ALWAYS a huge surprise when I remove the beads from the sawdust - love that moment of disclosure!

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