ABOUT RAKU TECHNIQUE
Maria Sezer is an artist who works with different materials and techniques. Her production of raku plates is one of those.
For Sezer, the plates and their motives and colors represent the ‘Blueprint of life’. After making the plates, she draws motives she finds in nature on them and glazes the surrounding around the motives. This way the motives become black during the raku firing as if they are burned into the memory of the clay. Just like in other firings of ceramics fire, water and earth are needed to make the product.
Raku is a ceramic firing method, which was perfected during the 16th century in Japan, meant to be used for the teacups needed during the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony was seen as a religious experience of Zen Buddhism. According to Zen Buddhism, beauty is found in natural and simple things during daily life.
The word ‘raku’ can be translated into something like happiness or pleasure. The raku firing technique that is nowadays used has mainly been developed in America where this technique became popular during the 1960s.
For the making of raku, a clay with grog is used. Grog is clay that has already been fired and then crushed. It is added to the clay in order to make the clay more resistant to the thermo shock it experiences when taken out of the kiln at the moment that the glaze matures. The temperature can be around 1000 Celsius at that time.
After taken out of the kiln, the raku ware is placed into organic material like leaves, pine needles, sawdust, etc. upon which that material starts to burn.
After a short burning, the fire creates lots of smoke and is covered so that a de-oxidation or reduction atmosphere develops. Through this, the oxides in the glaze will be pulled to the surface and may change the color of the glaze and have an uneven effect. At the same time, the smoke penetrates into the unglazed parts and these places (in this case the motives are left unglazed) become black.
One is not always sure of which effects will happen and that is what makes the raku firing so very exciting.