Art students experience ancient Japanese technique

Taking their cue from 16th century artists, Anoka Middle School for the Arts ceramics students created objects of joy and contentment May 28 when they experienced Raku, an ancient Japanese firing technique.

Anoka Middle School for the Arts ceramics students experienced ancient Japanese firing after they created a special rake pot and witnessed the Raku technique demonstrated for them on the school’s northeast lawn May 28. Photo submitted

Anoka Middle School for the Arts ceramics students experienced ancient Japanese firing after they created a special rake pot and witnessed the Raku technique demonstrated for them on the school’s northeast lawn May 28. Photo submitted

“‘Raku,’ when freely and loosely translated, can mean joy, enjoyment, pleasure, comfort, happiness, or contentment,” said Anoka Middle School ceramics instructor Jacqueline L. Johnson.

The Raku firing technique, Johnson said, uses a rapid rise in temperature in a fuel-fired kiln.

First, students created a special rake pot for the project and then followed Johnson outside to  the school’s northeast lawn.

There students gathered for the communal Raku firing and experienced a traditional artists gathering – sharing art work,  teamwork, and camaraderie as they witnessed professional potters firing their ceramic art pieces with the Raku technique.

Once the items reached glaze maturity, they were taken out of the kiln and placed in an air-tight container for a short time before being air cooled or sprayed or dipped in water.

The results: vivid colors and copper sheen on the Raku-fired items.

“Oxygen deprivation, the fire, and temperature changes cause the glazes to fully or partially reduce and cause the interesting colors or patterns of color or areas of bronze, copper, or silver to develop,” Johnson said. “As a result, the items have wonderful vivid colors and sheen.”

And no two are alike, she said.

The Raku firing process has become an annual end-of-the-school-year event for Johnson’s students.

“This allows the students to experience a different firing technique than is commonly used in schools … and they get to partake in an experience common in the artist community,” she said.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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