I have been involved in pottery making since the 70’s and the most difficult part for me has always been the question of colours and finishing. Consequently I decided to attend the workshop of Vilma Villaverde for a course in glazes and Raku, strangely enough the firing was made in my studio.

The course convinced me that this was my future, while the burning in my electric kiln helped me to pluck up courage and handle it without fear, opening and closing the kiln at 900º, manipulating the tongs or clips, etc. All this has been a great experience for me and helped in the development of my works and profession.


Raku is a technique used to obtain the chemical reduction of the metallic oxides in the glazes: the pieces already burned and with glaze are placed in the kiln at 920º C to 1.000º C, the taken out and put into a hole or pit in the ground or inside a dustbin filled with sawdust, wood slivers or suchlike. As the red-hot piece comes in contact with the sawdust, this ignites. At this moment the pit or bin is covered and the fire consumes the oxygen, and the reduction is obtained. If the glazes does not contain metallic oxides (white or transparent), the result is an attractive smoky appearance.


Brief history of this technique

Raku means happiness, enjoyment, pleasure, satisfaction. There are two versions regarding the way in which this way of firing pottery began, one way says that around 1550 after a huge natural disaster in Japan a quantity of Korean ceramists were called to keep reconstruct the houses, one of them was Chojiro, son of Ameyra. As they could not produce fast enough, they began removing the tiles while hot with pincers, thus discovering that the tiles withstood the thermal impact, thanks to the great amount of sand contained in the mixture. Another version says that Chojiro, due to the great demand of teacups for the tea ceremonies, started to remove them while incandescent with the help of pincers.

I personally uphold the second theory, since at that time the custom was for each feudal master to possess various sets of crockery, with a headman to organize the ceremonies, and choosing a ceramist to produce the crockery. Sen-no-Rikyn, great Master of the tea ceremony on Kyoto took Chojiro as his protégé, and presented him to Hideyoshi, great Feudal Master for whom he worked all his life.

The original colours used were black (Kuro Raku) and red (Aka Raku): adopted not only al being easy to obtain, one from a stone in the river Kamo, and the other form the iron oxide, but because of the contrast with green tea.

At the beginning of the last century, a British man called Bernard Leach visited Japan and relates in his book “The ceramists Manual”, that he had the opportunity to become acquainted with this technique and was much taken by it. He dedicated his stay in the country to it, and on his return to England made it known as he had learnt it.

Later a North American ceramist introduced it to the Unites States, reaching Paul Soldner, “father” of occidental Raku, and made the changes which today characterize this technique: the reduction and the smoking.


Cerámica Raku: Una técnica, una pasión
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Alejandra Jones
Ana María Divito

Editorial Belgrano, Universidad de Belgrano

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