This raku work is something I have been experimenting with over the past several years. The technique is called slip resist or naked raku. It is similar to batik but done on clay instead of fabric. The pottery is painted or dipped with slip (liquid clay), then fired to almost red heat and pulled out of the hot kiln with metal tongs and placed inside a closed metal container filled with sawdust. Carbon (smoke) penetrates the exposed clay and cracks in the slipped surface. After only a few minutes in this smoky atmosphere, the pottery is removed and quenched with water. The slip pops off, usually in several large pieces, and what remains are patterns from where the slip protected the clay from carbon. It is a very exciting process to witness and reminds me of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. The clay is porcelain, low fired, unglazed and not suitable for holding water or fresh flowers.
I’ve been making this style of work for almost thirty years. The burnishing creates the shiny surface and is done by hand using a smooth stone similar to the way some Native Americans burnish their pottery. Each vase is burnished at least twice, first with water and then with olive oil. The colors and patterns result from the firing. The pots are placed inside of saggars (lidded clay containers in the gas fired kiln) and then packed tightly around the pots are salt, sawdust, marsh grass, cocoa shells and iron oxide (rust). Elements present in these materials create color and pattern when they burn. Unloading the saggars when the kiln is cool is a very exciting time. I have good control over the range of color, but the patterns are always unique to each piece. The clay is porcelain, unglazed and purely decorative.