While at the Oregon State Fair, we wandered into the Willamette Art Center. Located at the fair grounds, it offers year-round ceramic classes and events. In the center’s gallery, I found a small shell-shaped raku plate for the unbelievable price of $6. I was titillated because I love raku and have a dozen or so pieces.
Raku is a type of Japanese pottery that is fired at a low temperature then removed from the kiln and placed in water, on straw, sawdust, newspaper or other organic materials to create unusual and often unexpected patterns and colors.
While paying for the shell plate, one of the potters mentioned that I could glaze and create my own raku vase at the fair’s Artisan’s Village. I nearly stumbled over my own feet in my haste to get to the village. Within in minutes, I spotted an amazing vase with a chop (signature) on it. I knew it was special and more telling, it was screamed at me to be painted.
After paying for it, I set to work picking out glazes. The pottery to be fired is known as greenware. It’s a pleasant pinkish beige. The glazes, even though they have dramatic names like Reynolds Wrap and Brilliant Purple, are muddy colored. You essentially slop them on with a brush. With raku, however, any area that isn’t glazed turns black when fired because of the fumes from the smothering organic material.
In addition, the place in the kiln where the piece is place and when it’s removed from the kiln contributes to the resulting color. I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to create a raku vase!
After I glazing the pot, we spent the next few hours going through the livestock, horse, and poultry barns along with visiting the 4H building. When then returned to the Artisan Village to check on the progress of my vase. What I saw brought me to tears. The vase is indescribably beautiful…
More extraordinary… the vase was thrown (created) by Brian Ransom, a Portland born ceramic artists who makes ceramic instruments from clay. His work is breath-taking. I’m humbled to have one of his vases. I’m hope he likes how it turned out!