Raku Firing: Advanced Techniques

Raku is one of the most exciting and popular techniques in ceramics. From the ball of clay to the final fired piece, you’re in control of every creative aspect along the way, and the basic raku process is within the reach of potters of any age or skill level. But when the technically skilled and highly creative artists turn to raku, they explore and experiment to take the medium to an inspiring level.



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Softcover | 144 Pages
Order code B077 | ISBN 978-1-57498-301-2

This updated and revised Ceramic Arts Handbook edition of Advanced Raku Techniques contains information on forming, glazes and glazing, kiln construction and firing, as well as inspirational stories from some of the most influential raku artists working today. For any potter who has experienced the excitement and immediacy of the raku process, this book is a must.

Exciting and engaging

In raku firing, you know that sound of the kiln with a gas burner roaring, the blast of heat you get when you remove your work, and the focus you have moving your work to a container of combustibles. Those who have never done raku don’t know what they’re missing. But even as simple as the technique is, there are many variables to explore, and in Raku Firing: Advanced Techniques you can take a look at some of the techniques these professionals have to offer.

Marcia Selsor paints large raku plaques with cattle or horses. She started making the slabs when she lived in Montana. One day while driving home, she saw black angus against fresh green grass and immediately thought “raku!” Shortly after, she saw mustangs racing in the wild and wanted to do a series for those as well. Using large Raku-fired Slabs, she captures the essence of Montana and reveals the process.

George Juliano says that a gas kiln was difficult to find within his school budget so he decided to build his own Portable Gas Raku Kiln. Beginning with a 55-gallon drum, some ceramic fiber and a few items from the hardware store, George quickly makes an inexpensive raku kiln with the help of the auto mechanics teacher—problem solved. See his solution in this detailed step-by-step how-to.

Tom Radca has worked in pottery for more than 20 years specializing in Large Raku Platters and hand-cut tiles. He says that in his first venture into making large platters, he made more than 70 of which only 8 survived. Through experimentation and determination, he figured out all the technical issues from forming through firing and shares the how-to results here. See how he does it. Hal Riegger is considered the Father of American Raku having begun practicing the technique in the 1940’s. In his telling of Raku Then and Now, he explains his use of “postfiring reduction” that defines Western Raku, and of the Zen connection.

Discovering Naked Raku came about with Kate and Will Jacobson looking for an alternative to the drudgery of a high pressure production pottery. By “wasting” time exploring everything ceramic, they hit on the fact that flaking glaze can change a career.Steven Branfman is probably one of the best known raku artists around today. When he demonstrated Raku at Amatlan, his lengthy seminar explored many of the possibilities that the raku technique offers. One technique he’s developed is his Inlaid Glass Technique where he rolls a soft leather-hard form over crushed glass. The effects are stunning.All advanced techniques begin with a solid understanding of the process. John Ramer Sherrill explains how to do Successful Raku to overcome the frustrations of mastering the basics in this nuts-and-bolts recap of how to do raku.

Billy Ray Mangham believes that raku, wood firing and salt glazing are similar in that the process can obscure content, making the process the only element evident in the work. By Reconnecting with the Species, he brings form, content and process into balance.

CJ Buckner creates colorful elephants, giraffes, cats, pigs, lizards, birds and a host of other whimsical creatures to life in her Raku Menagerie. Her efforts to make each piece fun, and to do it safely, are her objectives.

Marcia Jestaedt didn’t set out deliberately to create Floral Imagery on Raku Fans, but like many raku artists, the work evolved. She explains her process of how to transfer intricate designs to large slabs and successfully raku them.

Beth Cavener Stichter spent 21 years studying science and before she took off into the world of art. Struggling through many of life’s obstacles, her direction became the New Beginnings of a body of work in collaboration with her mother.

For the serious professional, a way to get a body of work produced quickly and efficiently is paramount. Ronda Liskey details how to construct and safely operate a Production Raku Kiln. Andreas and Jennifer Salzman experimented with many raku kilns out of necessity. They focused on kiln designs and came up with some rather interesting Alternative Raku Kilns in the process including a saggar kiln and a wood fired kiln. Nesrin During’s Wood-fired Raku Kiln requires about 50 insulating fire bricks and its rudimentary design makes it easy to construct. You can fire this kiln alone or with students or friends and it only requires a supply of scrap wood for fuel. To get the best results, W. Lowell Baker describes Wood Firing Basics that hold not only for a small raku kiln but even for a more substantial wood fired kiln.

Ceramic fiber is one of the greatest inventions in modern ceramics and Daryl Baird makes a lightweight Portable Fiber Raku Kiln from the material. You’ll find complete plans for the kiln and the wheeled base that makes it easy to move around.

The late Harold McWhinnie stated that all Raku Glazes are relatively simple formulations and that success is more likely when working with a few recipes that are similar in composition. With his three base glazes and twelve recipes, you’ll have no problem coming up with variations of your own.

Tom Buck reveals the secrets to Designing a Matt Red Raku Glaze by utilizing a very scientific approach. Through calculation, he describes how he worked at getting a glaze that revealed a mottled red-bronze with a satiny surface.

If you know the rainbow effect of oil on water, you can get that effect on your raku surface with the Valdez Flashfiring method developed by John Sherrill.

R.W. Burrows sorts out the truth from superstition for getting brilliant Interference Colors with Copper Raku. Testing several methods, he describes how to get consistent copper effects with your firings. Jeff Zamek describes a simple approach for developing Raku Color and Opacity. With this method, you’ll quickly learn about the effects of adding metallic coloring oxides, stains and opacity-producing agents to a base glaze. A technical ceramics class was a revelation for Lila Bakke and it helped unlock the mysteries of many aspects of pottery. One task was to originate clay and glaze recipes and with her Raku Glaze Trials she accomplished both.

For many, formulating clay bodies is not an option so if you’re interested in understanding what you need to consider when buying premixed Raku Clays, here are tips on plasiticity, thermal shock, color and texture.

How do you fire 5-foot tall vases? Carl Gillberg enjoys Large-scale Raku and this review of his forming and firing techniques gives you an insight into the complexities and equipment necessary to handle the really big stuff.


“If you are interested in pursuing raku as a ceramic process, this book has a wealth of information for you. Many of the articles are “this is how we did it” looks into kilns, clay bodies, glazes, and processes. A few are about personal experiences with the process, of which the first article, by Hal Riegger, is also a great look at the history of Western-style raku.” — Beth Peterson about.com
“A raku firing involves heat, fire, smoke, sweat and sometimes even tears, but none of these things are part of the book Raku by John Mathieson because this British potter writes with such a dry, detached style, often in the passive voice, that the excitement and drama of raku are dampened down, leaving us with an uninspiring but still useful collection of information. Mathieson covers all aspects of raku, including choosing clay, choosing a fuel, building a kiln, forming pots, glazing and decorating, firing and finishing, and the book is filled with small colour photos of raku techniques, as well as samples from the work of over thirty potters (plus some of their slip and glaze recipes). However, the details of forming and firing techniques are difficult to pull out of the opaque prose in which they are buried. On the other hand, Raku Firing: Advanced Techniques opens with a lively essay by Hal Riegger, one of the original raku artists in North America, in which he describes his early and ill-fated attempts at raku, his later raku innovations and his philosophy behind his use of the raku process. After that, we get an essay on naked raku by Kate and Will Jacobson that includes not only a description of their process but a narrative about how these two production potters try to keep a balance between creative exploration and financial security. Other essays cover raku firing large slabs, a raku workshop in a small village in Mexico, inlaying glass while forming wheel-thrown pots, some wacky sculptures, “production raku” using levers and fulcrums to move the kiln and the reduction chamber around, an extensive discussion on ways to build raku kilns, firing with wood in a loosely stacked kiln that you can unstack and put away when the firing is over, instructions for something called “Valdez flashfiring,” how to make and raku fire a seven-foot tall pot, plus recipes for glazes, slips and clays. Some of the techniques are, indeed, advanced, but even novice raku potters will find much they can use in this book, and much that will inspire them to try just about anything.” — Patty Osborne, Potters Guild of BC Newsletter – September 2010
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