Art Meets Chemistry in Ancient Ceramics Firing Technique

ODA students were treated to a unique experience as Art Teacher Mr. Levi Biedermann and guest artist Carla O’Brien from Sarasota Clay Company led an intense, day-long, hands-on raku firing last week. AP art students participated in the activity while other classes, students with free periods or study halls, and faculty members came to observe the stunning process that incorporates chemistry and history to create one-of-a-kind fine art pieces.
Raku, an ancient form of ceramics favored by Zen Buddhist Masters since the 1550s for their ceremonial teaware, is a low-firing process that involves removing the pottery from the kiln while red-hot and placing it into a container with sawdust, horsehair, paper, or other combustible material. Once the material has ignited, a lid is put on the container causing thermal shock affecting the clay and glaze colors, and causes crackling. Once the container’s smoking eases, the still-blistering piece is plunged into water to halt the firing process. Glazes are applied to the pieces before they are fired, but each raku firing yields a unique result.

“In raku firing all of nature's elements are used, earth, fire, air, and water. A lovely fact about raku is that its name literally translates as 'happiness in the accident,'” a master potter notes.

Click for a video of the raku firing on campus.

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