The Woskob Family Gallery is a space for contemporary arts and culture in downtown State College, PA.
Artwork Spotlight: Rebecca Morgan’s Raku Jugs
December 5, 2017
The process of Raku firing uses simple techniques to produces unique results. Typically, clay is fired twice: once to make it durable, and then again to create a glaze. Raku firing substitutes the traditional glazing methods with a paired down approach. The practice of Raku originated in Japan during the 16th century. The pottery accompanied ancient tea ceremonies – a common practice in Japanese culture even today. In the 1950’s, American potters such as Paul Soldner adopted this practice because of their appreciation for Japanese ceramics. The ceramicists who used Raku firing in the US took liberties to create new forms and experiment with the ancient technique. The basics of the Raku firing process are:
- Heat the piece to 1000 – 1800 degrees Fahrenheit in a kiln,
- Transfer to a barrel (exposing the piece to oxygen) with combustibles (i.e. newspaper, mulch, dirt, grass, etc.),
- Close off the barrel to deprive the environment of oxygen,
- Remove the piece (sometimes people will submerge in water to cool more quickly).
- After the piece is removed it makes a crackling sound until it cools. This process produces a unique glazed effect that common-practice firing techniques don’t achieve.
While Raku can be considered a “low” form of ceramic firing in the US, it is one that continues to have mass appeal. For Rebecca Morgan, Raku gives life to her ceramics. Each jug that Morgan creates takes on a character of its own, partially because of the element of chance and unknown outcome. In Art Interview New York, Morgan said:
When I pulled out my first jugs it was an epiphany. Left to chance, there was so much individual variety in the surfaces. Raku is primordial; instead of choosing what color the jugs would be with commercial or studio glazes, for the most part the final result is entirely unto its own making. You can’t buy these surfaces in a bottle, and raku just felt so much more honest than using commercial glazes, closer to the heart of how I always envisioned the jugs.
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