Monday, December 17, 2012

Birchbark Raku Vases

To create these "Ichibana" Raku vases my goal was to evoke a sense of birch bark not build a "fool the eye"  representation of a birch tree. I pressed thin slabs of clay onto and around a birch log I  collected from a downed tree. I pressed the clay carefully around sawed branches and other imperfections. I reversed the slab, pushing out the branch parts and slapped them around a cylinder. I did not want to disguise the fact that they were clay slabs so I left edges and torn ends. After bisque firing I used a liquid wax to paint anything I wanted black. That would be the branch parts and the little specks that are on natural birchbark. Glaze will not adhere to wax and those areas would turn black with smoke. I glazed the outside in a white crackle and the inside with a copper glaze.  After the reduction firing I got copper flashing along some edges, and coppery greens on the inside. It has an "abstract expressionist" sense of a realistic  artifact. Walking through the woods in the Adirondacks you see downed birches everywhere. The bark looks like this, torn, imperfect, ragged and beautiful.    The vases are from12 to 14in. tall

Raku Vessel #1

A rather large pot, 12 in diam. 10in tall. hand- built,slab,coil and pinch method with a raku black glaze. Very light, less than a lb.


That's me on the left. In order to know when to pull the pots out of the kiln you actually have to look inside to see how the glaze is settling.

 I have been taking a break from painting for awhile and exploring  my interests in raku pottery. Pictured is the small gas kiln ( I used and the pits where the vessels find their color. A Raku firing is an interesting process. It originated in Japan with Zen monks and stresses natural forms and the accidental and spontaneous. American Raku was popularized by Paul Soldner in the '50's when he dropped a molten pot in  the leaves by accident . When he covered it up to put out the fire he found rich colors and metals came to the surface of the pot. What happens is when a hot ,glowing pot is taken out of the kiln and placed in a bed of combustables flames happen. The pit is covered and the fire consumes all the oxygen in the pit. In an oxygen free atmosphere all the metals in the glazes come to the surface (called a reduction) to create copper and silver shines as well as black crackle lines where the smoke gets into the surface. It's also great fun. I believe Raku translates roughly to mean "Party". Pictures of the actual pots will follow as soon as I take them.