Raku has been a popular technique among potters for a long time—the roar of the fire, the glowing work, the dramatic results—are all part of the allure. But raku is more than just a technique, it’s a way of thinking with an attitude of openness to the unexpected and willingness to use accidental happenings in developing your work. Raku encourages curiosity and exploration, and there’s no end to the variety and quality possible in this medium.


British potter John Mathieson provides a clear and concise overview of the raku process, covering all the essentials—clay types, post firing reduction methods, and equipment. You’ll also enjoy the tips and techniques shared by 30 experts on topics spanning the entire raku process from conception to final reduction.

 

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Softcover | 128 Pages
Order code G075 | ISBN 978-1-57498-166-7

 

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The first four chapters cover the basics of raku including a brief history, a discussion of suitable clays, making and decorating techniques and some pointers on the importance of bisque firing.

 

In the chapter on glazes and glazing, Mathieson demystifies raku glazes as he discusses colors, oxides, stains, copper matts, materials and soluble salts. And you’ll find more than 50 glaze, stain and slip recipes in the appendix to get started with. In addition, there’s a brief discussion about glaze application and the effect of time on iridescence.

 

A couple of chapters are dedicated to raku kilns, with detailed discussions on fuel types, construction materials and burners. There are even six descriptions of simple raku kilns you can construct out of new and/or found materials as well as information on buying a ready-made commercial kiln. A discussion about raku safety precedes the chapter on the actual process of raku firing, a critical factor when doing this type of firing. In discussing the raku process, Mathieson leads you through each step beginning with the tools and setup to the quenching and cleanup.

 

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When it comes to raku, a simple process can yield many results as found in the profile section. Here you’ll discover some of the work, tips and techniques of 30 raku artists from 10 countries. And you’ll realize that while the idea of fire and clay is universal, the thoughts of each artist reveal something unique that is both amazing and inspiring.

 

Louis Pasteur once said that chance favors the prepared mind. Potters rejoice in the chance offerings that fire provides when they’re prepared, and Raku is the perfect book for preparing yourself for those serendipitous offerings of raku fire and smoke.

  
Table of Contents

  1. A Brief History of Raku
  2. Clays for Raku
  3. Making and Decorating Techniques
  4. Biscuit Firing
  5. Glazes and Glazing
  6. Kilns-Fuel and Construction Materials
  7. Kiln Construction
  8. Health and Safety
  9. Raku Firing
  10. Makers Profiles
  11. Clay, Slip and Glaze Recipes
  12. Conclusion
 

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REVIEW

A raku firing involves heat, fire, smoke, sweat and sometimes even tears, but none of these things are part of the book Raku by John Mathieson because this British potter writes with such a dry, detached style, often in the passive voice, that the excitement and drama of raku are dampened down, leaving us with an uninspiring but still useful collection of information. Mathieson covers all aspects of raku, including choosing clay, choosing a fuel, building a kiln, forming pots, glazing and decorating, firing and finishing, and the book is filled with small colour photos of raku techniques, as well as samples from the work of over thirty potters (plus some of their slip and glaze recipes). However, the details of forming and firing techniques are difficult to pull out of the opaque prose in which they are buried. On the other hand, Raku Firing: Advanced Techniques opens with a lively essay by Hal Riegger, one of the original raku artists in North America, in which he describes his early and ill-fated attempts at raku, his later raku innovations and his philosophy behind his use of the raku process. After that, we get an essay on naked raku by Kate and Will Jacobson that includes not only a description of their process but a narrative about how these two production potters try to keep a balance between creative exploration and financial security. Other essays cover raku firing large slabs, a raku workshop in a small village in Mexico, inlaying glass while forming wheel-thrown pots, some wacky sculptures, “production raku” using levers and fulcrums to move the kiln and the reduction chamber around, an extensive discussion on ways to build raku kilns, firing with wood in a loosely stacked kiln that you can unstack and put away when the firing is over, instructions for something called “Valdez flashfiring,” how to make and raku fire a seven-foot tall pot, plus recipes for glazes, slips and clays. Some of the techniques are, indeed, advanced, but even novice raku potters will find much they can use in this book, and much that will inspire them to try just about anything. — Patty Osborne, Potters Guild of BC Newsletter – September 2010