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"Is anyone else completely satisfied with their pot?"

July 22, 2011
by North House Folk School

Crafts, crafts, crafts! That's what North House is all about, right? I've gotten to try my hand at so many different types so far this year, and the opportunities just keep coming.

Last weekend I got to hang out with the mosaickers and witness pottery shards and stray pieces of stained glass transform into works of art. Spirals, birds, windows, trivets and mixed-media gulls all made an appearance, and it was beyond fun to see which colors worked where, and how the picture changed up-close and far-away. Do I sense a new pasttime? There are so many to choose from. I did learn though that you can buy mosaic supplies at the hardware store, and who doesn't love a field trip to the hardware store?

So, while I was still on a high from the mosaics, I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing Raku pottery. I joined a creative group of six other women to glaze pots, fire them in the kiln, watch them flame in the Wall Street Journal, then quickly cool in the water of Lake Superior. Trying to choose a favorite pot was like trying to choose a favorite child - they were all so inpidual and beautiful. Let me share with you a little of what the class was like...and if you're interested, you can have your own Raku Pottery Experience!

First, we started off by choosing our glazes. There are different colors and sheens, some crackle sometimes, some don't, sometimes you get blues and greens, sometimes you get coppers and yellows, it all depends on the temperature of kiln, how fast it gets hot, how long you fire it, the whim of the kiln gods, etc etc

This is my first pot after I glazed it - I couldn't decide which colors I liked best so I used all of them:

Then we placed all our little babies in the kiln...

....and waited for it to get up to about 1900°F

While we were waiting we prepared the bins with fresh newspaper for the 2nd firing. We learned to only use the Wall Street Journal because the ink won't smear (businessmen and -women don't like smudges on their nice white shirts).

We also got to walk on the beach and poke around the studio. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, perfect for glazing in the sun.

After a sufficient firing time, we all got our cameras out for the (first) big moment of truth - when our pots came of out the kiln.

Look at all that fire...oooh...ahhh...

The pots are quite hot...

...but cool down fairly quickly (this second picture I took almost immediately after the first one)

Then they are thrust in the newspaper, which promptly alights given the high temperature of the pot

And a brave student wearing long sleeves and thick gloves quick covers the bin (well, two bins - an inner and an outer).

The second moment of truth come after the pots sit in the bins curing for about 15 minutes, and we take them - again using the big, thick gloves - and drop (yes, drop! you don't want the gloves to get wet or they do not so much do a good job of insulating) them into buckets of fresh, cold Lake Superior water.

They become easy to handle fairly quickly - in just a few minutes - and then it's scrub scrub scrub the ashes off until the final moment of truth...(drumroll please...)

TA-DA! Beautiful, unique functionalandornamental Raku pots

(My first one, that you saw unglazed at the beginning of this post, is in the center, next to the squat vase with the spiral - my 2nd pot - quite the metamorphosis, ehh?)