Thursday, August 07, 2008

Barbara Van Sickle Raku Workshop at StudioElan

by Eleanor Hendriks

It was a pleasure to host a Kawartha Potter's Guild workshop this past weekend. Barbara Van Sickle of Acton came to spend the day with a crew of 11 eager potters. She shared two of her techniques with us -Naked Raku and Copper Matte Reduction Raku. Clouds threatened all day but only halted the heavy kiln action for short periods. In all, Barbara fired more than 10 kiln loads of our work, all the while sharing her knowledge, inspirations, and great stories.

Barbara -full of carefully researched expertise, tips galore and boundless good cheer...
The Naked Raku firings started with kilns full of pots covered in soaking WET slip...

The pieces were pulled hot from the kiln and placed in containers of shredded paper...
...we encouraged smoke (yes, I warned my neighbours) hoping for lots of carbonization on our pieces where the slip layer had cracked...

The slip falls (or is laboriously chipped) off revealing the pattern of the crack lines painted on the surface in smoke...

This piece gets a bath to encourage slip removal...

Some results... PINK?? -probably from some iron in the clay...

Yes -that is a bum...with cracks!

Subtle lines and dots...
Serendipitous variation on an elegant form...

If the Naked Raku wasn't fabulous enough, Barbara also demonstrated her finely honed Copper Matte Raku techniques.
Glazed pieces are removed from the kiln while hot and set on a bed of sawdust -which then ignites...

The flames affect the metals in the glaze, essentially painting the pieces with flames...
Detail of the flame painting...

As the pieces cool in the reduction chambers (fancy moniker for metal cans sealed off with sawdust) the marks that the fire has made are preserved on the surface of the piece.
To experience some of the drama of Raku for yourself, stare at these cans imagining the surprises inside until they are cool enought to touch -25 long minutes!

Finally the moment of truth... just look at those colours!

More results...

And more...

I had a completely wonderful day -all clay talk all the time and the generous spirit of Barbara setting the tone for the day.
My sculptures however came through with mixed results...
The clay I used for the piece on the left produced rather faint smoke markings and a surface that I found totally unpleasant. The piece on the right was made with a different clay. It has an interesting surface that I plan to repeat but the poor fellow lost his head!

My Copper Matte adventures were more successful...

And my favourite piece of the day! This is the little sister to the piece that had the blow out in the bisque kiln, and I'm thrilled with how it turned out!
If you have a chance to see Barbara in action, grab it -you won't be disappointed! In fact, she has said that she has a kiln and will travel -get a group together and she will come to you!! Better yet, get a group together and meet up with her here at StudioElan!

10 comments:

Ben Stark said...

Sounds like a blast! Glad the rain held off enough to get some great work out of the kiln!

Ronalyn said...

What a great day you had. I love the Raku pieces.

LaPellaPottery said...

What a lovely range of results!

Julie said...

Liking a lot of these! Your pot that lost its head looks great... even headless. Nice colors on the copper reduction too.

Aside... if you weren't please use respiratory protection. There's a brief article here: http://ceramicartsdaily.org/feature/featuredetail/2008-04/saferaku.aspx .

MAKUstudio said...

Great results! Love your favorite piece as well! Thanks for sharing!

Patricia Griffin said...

What a party! Looked like so much fun and the results are stunning. Congrats!

Todd said...

Wow! Beautiful pieces. What a wonderful opportunity!!
Peace!
Todd in Santa Fe

maryhanks said...

Oh, how wonderful! Whe my son was an art student I so loved when he did pottery. I love it all!!! Beautiful work!

Natalie -- NKP Designs said...

Wow wow wow! That was fun to follow. Thanks for sharing. Your flower vase is stunning!

Hattie said...

This raku was beautiful! I was never able to master it when I tried pottery years ago. Amazing!

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