Beth Shearon Fine Art

Hand Made, One of a Kind
Elegant Shearon Raku

Raku Process

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The Raku Process

raku pic, DDB

The work is creative, technical, and dangerous.
The style is timeless, and elegant.

The Form

A specialized raku clay formula is used in order for the works to better withstand the thermal shock of being pulled from a raging hot kiln and placed in the cold reduction chamber.

This clay is prepared and shaped, sometimes according to an inspirational idea and sometimes from what the clay appears to want to be-- usually a combination of both.

Each piece is trimmed, sometimes textured, smoothed, altered and/or carved, and records are made. Each piece is wrapped individually and dried very gradually.

When the works are completely dry they are bisque fired, which changes the properties of the material from clay to ceramic ware-- the piece is now permanent and can no longer be reshaped into something else.

The Colors

Each piece is individually hand glazed with specialized glazes, created specifically for raku firing.

The pieces are fired slowly, each by itself, or sometimes with one or two other pieces depending on size, thickness and type of glaze.

When the glaze is ready, the kiln, now around 2000 degrees, is opened.

(Yes that said two thousand degrees.)
(Please do not ever do this without proper training.)

The piece is pulled from the kiln and placed in a reduction chamber filled with combustible material.

This is the key dance
in order to get these effects
a dance at 2000 degrees
quickly, very quickly
carefully, very carefully

Flames flare up immediately when the extremely hot piece touches the reduction material, and the lid is then closed on the chamber. The closed chamber allows the fire and smoke do their magic-- removing the oxygen from the air, allowing the metallics in the glazes to be visible on the surface, and turning any unglazed portions black or dark gray.

Textured impressions from the reduction material may also be left in the glaze.

This is the combination of that which will never happen again, to create a piece quite like this. For example, most of the pieces on this site are glazed with one single glaze per piece-- every color variation and nuance is a result of the elements doing their thing, captured in a molten snapshot turned solid as it cools.

The thermal shock of going from the extremely hot kiln to the cold reduction chamber can cause pieces to break-- many a raku piece has been lost to this. It makes the pieces that do survive even more precious. Some don't consider the risk worth the danger and the effort. Some of us wouldn't think of settling for anything else.

The piece is kept in the chamber to cool down slowly, then later removed from the chamber and scrubbed to remove the ash and smut from the reduction. This is the point at which the artist finally gets to see what the finished piece looks like-- up until this point there may be guidance in a particular direction but what the glaze actually does is always eventually up to the elements.

When the pieces are completely dry they are coated with a special sealer to help protect them a little bit from oxidation, light, and fingerprints. Care should still be taken with any fine art, which leads to:

Care and Nurturing of Your Fine Art:

The beauty of "western" raku IS its function. It is not intended to hold water or food.

Even vessels that appear to be able to hold water may seep over time, and this seepage can eventually begin to dissolve and ruin your one of a kind raku piece-- and whatever treasured furniture it is displayed on. If you absolutely must use a raku vessel to hold fresh flowers please put a plastic cup or glass inside the vessel to hold the water.

Please keep your raku out of the sun and weather. Light will show fine art at its finest, and light can also damage it.
While these pieces will live just fine in regular household lighting, no- or low- UV/IR lighting is the best lighting for all fine art. I am a big fan of NoUVIR lighting, and there is more information about lighting on their website: http://www.nouvir.com/

Carefully dust with a duster or soft cloth.

* Raku on this site refers to "Western raku" or "American raku", which is different from Traditional Japanese Raku and means the work is processed through post-firing reduction as described above.

Measurements listed on this site are approximate. Larger, better resolution images are available for publishing upon request.
Thank you for reading. :)

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© 2006-2013
Beth Shearon