raku2I've got a bit of a problem about the following. I did not write it and don't know who did, all I have is a handout with the information. I offer it in the spirit of sharing that I hope the unknown author will appreciate. If anybody recognizes it's origins please let me know so I can attribute it. The work shown is mine.

"The raku style of pottery originated in Kyoto, Japan in the late 16th century with the potter Chojiro, a Korean immigrant. Bernard Leach in A Potter's Book tells us that Chojiro's parents, Ameya and Teirin, were the first to produce ware of the type we associate with raku, but it was Chojiro, under the guidance and tutelage of the great Kyoto tea master Sen-no-Rikyu, who brought the ware to the attention of the emperor Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi, in memory of Chojiro, bestowed a gold seal on Chojiro's son Jokei. The work raku comes from the ideograph engraved on that gold seal. Loosely translated, it can mean enjoyment, pleasure, comfort, happiness, or contentment.

raku1Raku was prized by the Japanese tea masters because it is unpretentious but aesthetically pleasing and embodies the ideals of Zen Buddhism and wabi. In Japanese aesthetics, wabi encompasses austerity, transience, seclusion, and tranquility. Wabi is the intangible essence of the tea ceremony. On the practical side, the porous clay body acts as insulation between the hot tea and the hand and produces a dull, quiet sound when it comes in contact with utensils or the table top.

raku4The beginning of raku in North America beyond Warren Gilbertson's introduction of the technique (in 1942) are unclear. The potter who is responsible for establishing raku as a popular, creative method of pottery making is Paul Soldner. Soldner began making his raku experiments around 1960 with only the information gathered from A Potter's Book (Bernard Leach). Being somewhat bored and dissatisfied with the apparent bland nature of the colour development in the pots, Soldner spontaneously put a piece in some leaves to burn. Thus was born our contemporary incarnation of the raku process - 'postfiring reduction'."

"I fire raku indoors in digitally controlled (GB4 by Digitry) electric kilns and do post-firing reduction in seasoned sawdust. raku3Sometimes I quench in water sometimes I don't. I wear an air-supplied face mask and have an industrial extraction fan going to keep the smoke moving. The controller allows me to have all the work ready for reduction at the same time and stay on top of at least some of the variables."


Peter Powning