Sunday, March 12, 2017

Raku Firing in the New Space

hot pots being moved with tongs into or out of the post firing reduction bucket (old building)

Last week YVC clay classes had raku firings all day on Thursday and Friday. In the new building, we are able to fire during during class time every quarter. We have a kiln yard on the south side of the studio that we can access through the kiln room. This space is a bit small, but it is away from air-intake, and its walls are tall so that the smoke is either inside the kiln yard or up and away from pedestrians.

new building kiln yard after the last firing

In the old building, we had to fire on the weekend, because the smoke from our firing bothered people in the nearby administration building. The old kiln yard had a lot of space, which was nice for hanging out and made it easier to be away from the smoke but still observing the firing. The new studio has a small space, but a few people can observe through the windows or can stand outside the exterior doors of the kiln yard to see without being right in the action. 

a view of the raku process in the old kiln yard

Firing raku during the week makes it easier for all the students to be involved if they so choose and I prefer not to spend an entire weekend day firing after spending five days at school during the week. The firing doesn't fit well into a two hour class, so students from my morning class had to start early or end late if they wanted to raku. The afternoon class is longer, so some of them were able to fire during class. Even if they aren't firing their own work, all the students can see the process during class and those who are firing work can get involved.

fired sculpture from this quarter's class

This year I had quite a few students choose to participate on both days. We got an early start and were able to fire several loads in the morning on Thursday before it rained and before the rain got heavier. We ended earlier than planned to get ourselves and the kiln out of the rain. Yakima rain usually isn't quite as serious as Wisconsin rain, so being out in the rain wasn't too bad most of the morning. Rain isn't great for the kiln, but we need to replace the top anyway. 

red hot pots after the kiln was opened (from the old studio)

The kiln in the new space is basically a revamped version of the same kiln from the old space. The old kiln had a base made of soft and hard fire bricks. The new one has the same arrangement for the base, but with fresh bricks. The top is still the same (and needs its fiber replaced), but the counterweight system from the old building has been replaced with a motorized lift. 

the new kiln base with the old kiln top

Most of the student work came through the firing safely, but I didn't get pictures. One large piece cracked and broke near the top, probably because it was large and made with porcelain clay. Another piece lost its bottom in the reduction bucket because it hadn't been attached well at the start. One more piece was dropped or pinched too tightly with the tongs so it cracked and broke into more than ten pieces.

student work with horse hair from this year's firing

We had three students do horse hair raku (where you put horse hair onto a hot, unglazed pot so it will burn and leave black lines of smoke permanently on the clay surface) this quarter. The results are a little hard to see on small work, but the plate shows the effect fairly well. 

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