Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Flames and Flowers on the Brain.

There are times when obsession is the name of the game, how do you know if you are at that point? If you are like me it is when you wake at night from dreams of that topic still bouncing around in you head. Of late this has been the case for two topics. One is Flowers, not ceramic blooms but rather the containers for set plants. I have found a great interest involving Orchids in the last few years, this includes the advantages of the proper container for them to live in. So I have started making a number of bowls and pots designed for these odd yeah beautiful plants.  

I am far from an expert on these lovely plants however I have come to enjoy the connection between ceramics and horticulture a bit more. With the right vessel orchids an thrive, and avoid many problems such as fungal issues and over/under watering. So I have been working to make a collection of these vessels to see if i can master at lease one aspect of their care. The POT.

However in my quest for the ideal orchid pot I also came across another interest I have had and that is the firing technique called raku. This method of firing pottery comes from Asia centuries in the past, however in to 1900's was made popular here in the US. There is much misunderstanding involving this glazing/firing method even I had a few bits of misinformation until a recent class about this. 

What is RAKU, it is a process of heating your pottery to a set temperature, often between 1500 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit or 815-982 degrees Celsius. Often this is judged by the visual cues to the heat (color and texture of the pieces in the peep whole). Once the pots are at the desired temperature you remove them (still at max temp) with tongs from the kiln, and place them either in a reduction such as a metal can with flammable materials, or set it to the side and manual add the organic materials to it, such as horse hair. Once cooled enough the piece can then be quenched in water is cooling speed in needed.

There are many pros and cons to the Raku method. If your pots are not prepped just right your pieces can explode either in the heating process or cooling due to thermal shock. Also these pieces are not considered wet Food safe as they are are still porous and may retain bacteria. Though this is a challenge Raku pottery has been used in many Asian cultures Tea Ceremonies for centuries. So set care is required in these situations. The advantages over more common glaze fires is the speed and often cost involved with this method. a raku firing load tends to last 30 min to an hour from start to finish, rather then as much as a few days for heating and cooling of regular kilns. This makes Raku more instant gratification. Also because of this the cost of each firing in minimal in comparison to most other types. While only an handful of pieces are normally fired at a time, multiple batches can be fired in a few hours meaning more pieces can be completed with same amount or less fuel.

With these thing in my head I have been thinking of event more pieces in addition to m orchid pots that I could make . So many choices so little time.