A few months ago I signed up to a ceramics class. Now twice a month on a Friday morning, I get clay and glazes up to my elbows and immerse myself in the world of pottery. I suffered a number of “Ghost” comments in the beginning, which I assume all ceramists must go through, a sort of weird 80’s Patrick Swayze pottery rite of passage? But even though I haven’t tried my hand at using a wheel yet, I was lucky enough to cheat a bit by joining in on a Raku workshop held by my teacher Marguerite Olivier on the weekend at a small organic fair at the foot of Montjuic.
Milos and I traipsed down to the Plaza Molina in Poble Sec and picked out some pre-fired wheel spun pots and bowls to glaze for the “Raku firing”.
Raku ware (楽焼) is a type of Japanese pottery that is traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony, most often in the form of tea bowls. In the traditional Japanese process, the fired raku piece is removed from the hot kiln and is allowed to cool in the open air or in a container filled with combustible material. Raku techniques have been modified by contemporary potters worldwide. source
Marguerite has been working with a Japanese ceramist named Misako, and both ladies explained the different glazes to us and how to paint our bowls. Once they were dry they were baked for about an hour in a kiln they had set up in the plaza, up to 1000 degrees celsius. I was a bit worried by the people casually walking past, but no-one was burned! After the pieces were baked they were added to drums filled with green brush, as the heat from the pottery ignited the leaves, the smoke caused a chemical reaction, and the alchemy of the glazes began. It is a rather magical experiment, as you never truly know what colours your glazes will turn out!
The bowls are then cooled in water, and the ashes scrubbed off. My bowl turned out a lovely blue and my tea cup an interesting combination of russet and white, they both have a delicious sawdust smell, which I guess will wear off, but for now reminds me of a fun filled afternoon! This Friday is my next class and I will be picking up another bowl and cup as well as two plates that I made! I really find the glazing process quite exciting, as it is so different from traditional painting, where you can exactly see the colours as your brush applies the paint to paper. With pottery glazing, you never quite know what you will get!