Potters master unique craft

Mick Hydes removes a pot from the kiln.

It was hot work at the Hakatere ceramics club on Saturday as exotic pottery made in the Raku style was created.

Raku is a Japanese style of pottery first made during the 1580s and the club holds at least one Raku firing day every year.

The main difference with regular pottery is the Raku glazed pots are removed from the outdoor kiln at a high heat then placed in bins to create a unique reaction.

Caz Handley shows her pot to Aileen Brake (left) and Sanae Hydes.

Club member Caz Handley described it as a mixture of heat and oxygen.

“What you are aiming to do is heat the pots to around 1050 degrees, when they are that hot they go straight into a garbage can, shredded newspaper is thrown in and you let it flame up, then put the lid on.

“Essentially when the pot goes into the rubbish bin it sets the newspaper on fire, when you put the lid on, it starves the fire of oxygen, creating a reduction chamber, and it’s those conditions which then brings out the glaze qualities,” she said.

In normal ceramic firing the pots cool down in the kiln before being removed.

Raku uses specialty glazes that have reactive materials like copper oxide that react to the heat creating unique metallic finishes.

Sandra McLintock with her Raku pot

“There is a real high risk of failure,” Caz said “because it’s a huge shock to the pot to go from 1000 degrees into a 12 degree day, so there is a good chance it could crack.

“In a normal kiln you won’t even crack the lid until its below 50 degrees, in this entire process you’re shocking it, all with the aim of getting a good glaze reaction.”

Hakatere ceramics president Mick Hydes said the Raku firing was a way to teach specialist skills to the members,and he still gets a thrill seeing the results.

The finished Raku pots

“I love the surprise you get when you open the can again,” he said.

The unpredictably of the creative process excites Caz.

“I can put three pots in and they will come out completely different, and that’s where the beauty comes from the unpredictably.”

-By Daniel Tobin