Crazy Ceramics

Raku Ho`olaulea 2010If you go to enough raku events, like this annual Raku Ho`olaulea, you begin to appreciate the incredible diversity in ceramic firing techniques. I haven't even started to scratch the surface of the art of raku firing but I wanted to share this one with you. Philip Markwart, shown in photo, is a long time ceramicist who specializes in Japanese sake cups and related implements. He is also a fan of the old style wood kiln called anagama. This is usually a large kiln built to have a tunnel effect where wood is stoked in one end and as the heat travels through the chamber the ceramics gets fired. These wood kilns take a long time to heat up and require stoking for several days to reach the proper temperature. Normally these kilns are build into the land and not easily transportable. The beauty of Raku Ho`olaulea is that you get to bear witness to human ingenuity. Phil built this portable wood fire kiln, which he calls Henagama or Strange Kiln, out of ironically enough a propane tank. The irony is that most modern day raku firings are done with propane gas. In this design Phil stokes the kiln with wood from the shoot. The wood burns inside the chamber and as you can see, the flame is released out the top. The ceramic pieces are in the chamber and gets fired in the process. Amazingly, there is no glaze on any of the pieces so any resulting finish is from the wood ash fusing to the ceramic surface. Phil got some beautiful pieces as a result of the firing. Keep in mind this is a long process which as started at 7:30pm Friday and finished at 7:30am the next morning. There is quite a bit of ingenuity built into this kiln. But a key element not shown in this photo is the fan system that blows air into the bottom of the kiln chamber. When you think of it, this is quite a technological marvel built from a recycled propane tank. If you are interested in more photos from this year's Raku Ho`olaulea you can find them posted here. I should also mention that guest artist Eduardo shared a process involving Stannous Chloride which transformed a metallic finish to a rainbow of colors. All in all, for the geek who enjoys novel kiln designs, chemistry, artistry and best of all FIRE, Raku Ho`olaulea is an event to experience.