It’s summer in Atlanta, 100 degrees and humid…it seems like a perfect time for naked raku!
What is naked raku? It’s a ceramics firing process similar to regular raku only with a very different preparation process and very different results. After the pot is made, it is permitted to dry to greenware, then it is burnished using one of several methods. I tried several, and found the easiest to be using tera sigillata. With this method, a coat of tera sigillata is put on the pot, then it’s burnished with a plastic grocery bag (I knew there was a good use for them). The process is then repeated 6-10 times. This produces a deep glossy coating on the pot so the slip that is applied later doesn’t stick. The pieces are then bisque fired to around cone 08 (low fire). On the day of the firing the pots are coated in a slip; the slip is allowed to dry and then the slipped area is covered with a basic glaze without any colorant. Once that is dry the kiln is loaded and fired to about 1410 degrees Fahrenheit but never above 1480 degrees. We do peek into the kiln a few times during this process because we want to see if the glaze is starting to look like an orange peel, which means the ceramics are ready to be removed from the kiln. Sometimes we were even able to see cracking in the glaze which helped us to know that the fun was about to begin.
When the kiln has held the temperature for a few minutes we turn it off, open it, reach in with tongs and take out the 1410-degree pots. The pieces are then placed in containers filled with a combustible such as sawdust or newspaper. The hot pot causes the combustible to catch fire; now the kiln yard is full of flame and smoke and people running around to get the fires covered. We want to ignite and extinguish the fires a few times, just as in standard raku, this seems to give the best results. After playing with the fire for a bit the pot is cooled by dunking it in water, or spraying it with a hose. The slip/glaze coating starts to peel off the pot in beautiful egg shell type pieces. The pot underneath is revealed showing deep black interesting lines where the flame reached under the slip/glaze. Some of the lines are very fine and delicate others are much broader. If the slip/glaze had any scraffito carving lines, those also show black. The rest of the pot displays the color of the clay or tera sigillata that was used in the burnishing process. The result is a beautifully decorated, yet unglazed pot. For examples check out my sculptural pottery section.