Raku Alchemy – Part 1

Last weekend we spent Sunday firing raku pieces, it’s a shame it is weather dependant but somehow that adds to the magic of the process.

Yes, I do think raku is magic, a bit of alchemy. Just look at the colour on this leaf.


There were other leaves that had the same glaze as but they didn’t give the same results as this one incredible leaf. So you can see where I’m coming from in terms of alchemy. I want to have a greater understanding of the process.

There must be something in the small details of the firing process, firstly temperature, and time to reach that temperature, I’m using a thermocouple so the temperature should be uniform.

20170909_102448Next the time taken and temperature of the piece as it goes into the reduction bucket. I’m not so sure this makes a great deal of difference as some pieces sit around longer in the kiln than others and they come out (sometimes) with great colours.

20170909_102505Then there are the combustibles, sawdust, newspaper and cardboard, but on this firing I’ve been consistent in using only sawdust. Each time I’ve let the bucket flame for a few seconds before putting on the lid. I’ve noticed that when the flames ‘kiss’ the glaze often the colours appear, but not always. Also as this is a reduction process the exclusion of air is important so a tight fitting lid helps a lot. I’m not sure how fast or how long the piece is left to cool makes much difference as the colours seem to appear as soon as the flames go out and don’t seem to change as the piece cools down.
So there are lots of possible reasons some pieces might have more colours than another piece with the same glaze, I haven’t mentioned glaze application, but all these pieces had 2 coats of glaze.

So for my next firing I’m going to try and remember which pieces have what glaze so I can compare the results after firing to see how the colours vary using the same glaze.

I took some photos with the leaves and glaze so I can identify which is which after firing

I have ammended this post as I intended having the leaves fired before posting but I had to postpone the firing yesterday as I’m resting with very sore ribs. So there will be a second post showing the results when I’m able. Good things are worth waiting for ☺

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It’s time to stock up.

It’s that time of year again when I need to knuckle down and  get back to work after a fairly leisurely summer, and make new stock for my galleries; and so the build up to Christmas begins.  I find it very hard to mention that word before November.

While my work is cooking away in the kilns I have been adding some earring charms to my Etsy shop. Adding stuff to Etsy is quite time consuming so I need to be more organised now, each morning I get a kiln loaded first before sitting down to the computer to add some stock to Etsy. Next there will be bowls and raku leaves and other gift ideas. I’m used to the rhythm of this pre Christmas period as I’ve done it long enough now but by Christmas Eve I know I will be shattered, still it’s a long way off so I’ll just keep making and listing.

ceramic earring charmsLet’s hope this rain doesn’t go on too long as I have leaves to raku fire before I can deliver the new stock to the galleries.

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A trip to Ennerdale show


The sun decided to shine on us so we headed off to Ennerdale show. I love country shows, Ennerdale show has a particularly intimate feel, nestled between the fells in one of my favourite places.


There were vintage cars on show

And vintage tractorsP1440908

Steam engines, this steam butter churn was my favourite.

P1440903We stood in the sunshine watching the different categories of horses and ponies being judged.


P1440919P1440947They really put them through their paces

P1440911Next we went to look at the livestock, the Herdwick sheep are my favourite. They were brought here by the Vikings.
P1440934They look so cuddly

P1440940Then the fowl, love this fluffy one.P1440924And Jemima
P1440922We found the perfect vantage point for our picnic on top of this hillock.

P1440952It was a great place to sit and watch the fell races, those runners must be incredibly fit.

P1440970We missed the start of the hound trail but we did see the finish. The trail is an aniseed one, this sport is taken very seriously in Cumbria.
P1440967Then it was time for the Cumberland wrestling so we headed back to the showground to get a better view. This is the juniors bout.

P1440975Then a couple of guys from the contingent from Brittany.
P1440978The wrestlers faces were so full of expression
P1440981The moves were entertaining, each bout started and ended with a handshake, and it was the best of 3 bouts for each pair of wrestlers.

P1440991The ladies from Brittany

P1440988The final bout, the guy in blue had fought several rounds, this was the bigger guy’s first bout. There was quite a size difference, Jan from Brittany won but John gave him a good run for it.
P1450004Country shows are a great day out and each has it’s unique appeal, there’s always something different to see. It’s something that brings the local community together, there were competitions for art and craft, vegetables, baking etc in the marquees.

It’s a great British tradition, I had a great day out.

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Ending the month on a high

I can’t believe it’s the end of August already and I’m seeing the month out on a high.
It didn’t start so well, the weather has been dreadful but in the end I had a wonderful day raku firing last weekend, we managed to do 11 firings in the day so that made a bit of room in my studio.

IMG_20170826_153909_770The month didn’t go completely to plan as I still haven’t fired the dinner set. I glazed a few vases with some of the combos from my test firing experiment. I was so disappointed when I opened the kiln. The glazes didn’t do what I’d hoped for.
P1440735I did get some wonderful pieces from the raku firing though, including all these leaves which seemed to fit in so well with the bank holiday weather, the rest of the country was basking in sunshine but it felt like Autumn here. I even stood with an umbrella over the kiln for a time.
Raku leavesI think this leaf is gorgeous.

Raku leafI fired rather a lot of small bowls and some pots too, some made me squeal with excitement. I have decided although I love them all I’m going to have to sell some to make more so they will be on my Facebook page hopefully on Sunday.

I made a lot of little bowls, this is my favourite

raku bowls

And some pots, the colour on this one was a surprise

P1440870And a lovely coppery one, which was fired twice, the first time it just looked a bit mediocre.

raku pot from Kiln Fired ArtOh, and my dish, I love this ,it will be hard to part with it so I’m kind of hoping no one buys it but if they do I can buy more glazes and make some more.

Raku platterTwo pots ‘kissed’ in the kiln , you can just see a mark near the base where the glaze came off. But I think these marks showing the making process just add to a raku pot don’t you?


There was a weird thing happen with this leaf, the one I used to stamp into the clay had some black paint on it, obviously I’d used it for another project but I thought it would just fire away, it didn’t. I’m not so sure I like the effect on this leaf but it’s good to know that china paint might hold under a raku glaze.

P1440878There were a few breakages too, this vase is very heavy in the base, it actually flew off the wheel when I was throwing it , I should have dumped it in the bucket but I decided to alter the shape and fire it to see what happened. It cracked. But I love the effect on the front, it reminds me of a lightning storm.

raku vases

Raku vase from Kiln Fired ArtI don’t have time to post all my photos from my raku firing but if you head over to Kiln Fired Art on Facebook on Sunday you can see them all in an album ‘Raku Pieces For Sale’.

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Botz Glaze Mixing Experiments

In preparation for glazing my dinner set I’ve done some experiments combining Botz stoneware glazes. Having spent so long making this set the last thing I want to do is to mess up when it comes to the glazing. I find glazing has it’s own problems but I won’t go there today.

Botz stoneware glazes were chosen because they are lead free and non toxic.

The samples are numbered, and I managed to write down which glazes went where, something I regularly forget to do as I’m so wrapped up in the process.

I applied two coats of each glaze, layering and overlapping them. The back side had 2 layers of Botz Plus as well as the same glazes as on the front. Trying to squeeze out as many glaze possibilities as I could the larger sample had 2 different glaze combinations.botz

Here’s a list of the glazes that I used.

  1. Creme – Turquoise granite – Black blue speckle.
  2. Creme – Turquoise granite – Bright blue effect.
  3. Creme – Ice crystal.
  4. Turquoise granite – Bright blue effect – White.
  5.  Ice crystal – Black blue speckle
  6. Black blue speckle –  (left side) – Ice crystal. (right side) – Bright blue.

I think I like the first combo best for the dinner set but I’m not entirely sure, I’m still considering the black blue speckle glaze  on it’s own that I used on the noodle bowl. I don’t mind eating off dark crockery but I know from research most people prefer light cream or white plates for food. But this set is for me, decisions, decisions 🙂

I love the running effects with the Botz Plus, but on plates I can’t imagine that the glazes will run as much. I have some spare plates made from another clay so maybe I should try  the glazes on those first. I feel I have blank paper syndrome, or in this case blank ceramic syndrome, and I need to get over it soon.

Also I need to do 3 coats of Creme instead of 2 for better coverage. I find it’s quite tricky getting even coverage with brush on glazes.

I haved to experiment further with hotter firing and a longer hold, but that’s for another experiment.

I want to get this set finished but I still feel a bit wary about glazing it.
Which glaze combo do you like best?


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Falling leaves – ceramic wall art

When we moved into this house I decided that I didn’t want anything near the windows that would distract from the view so I went for plain walls and simple blinds.

But for some time I’ve wanted to make something to hang in the corner that would add interest but not overwhelm. I wanted to connect the outside and the inside in some way.

So while I had the raku kiln out I made ‘Falling Leaves’ wall art. These are made with the heavily grogged clay , I used some brushed on as slip to roughen up the surface. This has worked really well adding texture to the leaves once glazed.

Some of the leaves have amazing colour.

raku leaves

leaves for the wallThe beauty of raku is you are never quite in control, I’m sure I didn’t use these colour glazes.

raku leaf
ceramic leaf wall art

I thought this leaf was less interesting so I gave it some faux water droplets.
ceramic leaf

Here’s how they look all together, I’m really pleased with them.P1440497
Spacing the leaves was a bit problematic even though I tried them out on the floor and measured the spacing. Never mind, out came the polyfilla. I’m still not sure about the spacing, I might add a couple more small leaves. I have a kiln full of leaves bisque firing today as I’m certainly going to add these to my range of products. I’m so pleased with how these turned out, and they make me smile.

raku leaves

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More Raku Bowls

I managed to get another raku firing done last week, in between the days of torrential rain. I have been waiting eagerly to fire up the kiln again but the weather has been so bad this summer.

I made several pieces including these 3 bowls which are a little experiment. The one on the left is the heavily grogged raku clay, the middle bowl is this same clay but with a layer of stoneware slip on top which makes it look a lot smoother. The bowl on the right is a new clay for me, it’s Ashraf Hanna’s raku clay.
P1440384I wanted to see how they fair during the firing process.
This is the one on the left after firing
P1440434The middle pot with the slip has an interesting crackle effect

And the Ashraf Hanna one, I think for bowls this is my preferred clay but I will tell you about a project involving the heavily grogged clay in my next post.
P1440416Also my daughter is home so she has had a play on the wheel and these are her pots after firing. Very wabi sabi, with some lovely colours.

So this raku firing was a success, I think I’ve cracked it ( or not cracked my pots) 🙂

I got up early this morning to list a few of my raku bowls in my Etsy shop.

raku pots

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Making flavoured gin and ceramic components.

It’ supposed to be summer, but you already know if you live here, the British weather is so unpredictable and this summer has been a bit of a wash out. That does mean everything in the garden is lush and green, my apple crop is better than ever.

I do love the smell of lavender in the garden, it’s time to make some flavoured gin. When I was last in Norfolk I had the best G&T ever, it was so very fragrant  and there was a definite hint of lavender; well Norfolk is famous for lavender.

I decided to have a go at making my own lavender scented gin after reading an article on Craft Gin Club website

Instead of starting with vodka I decided to start with a cheap gin, so it has some botanicals already. Lavender flowers, rosemary, and bay leaf from my garden were added to the bottle along with some black peppercorns, coriander seeds and juniper berries from my spice cupboard. The bottle was shaken from time to time, and tasted daily. It took 3 days before I thought it was ready for drinking.

You can definitely keep your Pimms, lavender gin served on ice with tonic water, lemon and a few juniper berries is definitely my taste of summer.

I have managed to spend a couple of days in the garden making and glazing ceramic jewellery components, I decided to make earthenware components this time as I wanted bright jewel colours. I love these bright glazes and my customers love them.

ceramic jewellery components frm Kiln Fired ArtEnjoy what’s left of the summer , I hope you have sunshine wherever you live.

Cheers !

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A trip to Potfest and making lemonade

Yesterday I had a trip to Potfest, I had a great time, saw some amazing work  and met a few potters whose work I have bought over the years so that was nice.  I was able to buy a few supplies including glaze for my dinner set.

One of the most amazing things I saw was a 3 D printer making pots. I have some of Joan Hardie’s work already; I was amazed to see her work going in a totally different direction these days. It was a fascinating process to watch, and Joan’s ceramic pieces were exquisite, like intricate, translucent, almost eggshell like forms in the most beautiful and intriguing shapes. If you would like to see Joan and Jack’s work they have a website which explains how their pots are printed.

After the raku firing I had last week, when all my pots cracked, it was my good fortune to watch a raku demonstration, and the chap ( I forget his name) gave me some great advice as to why my pots may have cracked, I think I knew where I had gone wrong already but he confirmed this, and gave me some tips too.

These are my cracked pots, although disappointed I’m not too bothered as I’m just getting the hang of firing with the gas torch, you need to get a feel for it, and I did get some fantastic colours on these pots. What you can’t see is how the colours sparkle and shimmer in the light.
Raku potsSo what do I do with my cracked pots? It seems such a shame to throw them out.

I had another minor disaster last week when I broke a piece off one of my greenware pots, but after a bit of filing, and drilling a couple of holes  I have turned it into one of my favourite bowls to date. A lovely noodle bowl, I need to make some more of these now.
noodle bowlI love this glaze and so I bought a large tub of it from Sedgefield Pottery when I was at Potfest, I think it could be the one for my dinner set, but I may do some test fires on mixing glazes before I decide.

I feel I have learned so much this week, I know there is a long journey ahead of me, but that’s the fun of it, and why I’m going down this path. Happy days !

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Raku progress

The new raku glazes arrived, and the weather looked promising so we decided to have another attempt at raku firing last weekend.

This was the second attempt since making the raku kiln, this time the firing was far more successful.

The first pots didn’t have a lot of metallic  colour, but at least I could see that the dry brushed glaze and smoke blackened the cracks did exactly what I hoped for. I did wonder if this pot would survive as I thought the texture may have weakened the pot.

Raku bowls
The second firing was far more successful, the kiln got quite a bit hotter and the posts were glowing red and sticky when they went into the combustibles. This one has some nice oil slick colours.

green raku bowl

I did the happy dance when I lifted the bucket lid to find this lovely raku pot.copper raku bowlI made a little video to show all the colours and how they change in the light.

I’m going to have to wait at least a week for the next raku firing as it’s set for rain all week, but I will get my pots glazed and ready to go.

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