http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raku_ware gives the following definition of Raku:

"Raku-yaki, or Raku ware, is a type of Japanese pottery that is traditionally and primarily used in the Japanese tea ceremony in Japan, most often in the form of tea bowls. It is traditionally characterized by hand-molding of the clay as opposed to turning it on a potter's wheel, resulting in each piece being "one-of-a-kind"; low firing temperatures (resulting in a fairly porous body); lead glazes; and the removal of pieces from the kiln while still glowing hot. In the traditional Japanese firing process, the fired Raku piece is removed from the hot kiln and put directly into water or allowed to cool in the open air. Raku techniques have been adopted and modified by contemporary potters worldwide."

ceramicsjcsMy mother and sister gave me a birthday present in the form of a Raku course at CeramicsJCS which is Johan Swart's ceramics studio situated at the Delvera Estate on Route 44 in the Cape Winelands District, just outside the town of Stellenbosch.

The studio is a renovated pig sty and each enclosure houses an incredible assortment of ceramics in various stages of production, as well as potters tools to get the job done. I often found myself staring at the assortment of notes, drawings and works of art in various stages of design.

Eight people attended the course and Johan gave us the guidelines of clay building. A great benefit of the course is that you can put in extra hours to complete your masterpieces which I took advantage of. The interaction between all of us was great and I was fascinated by the creativity.

Once the work was finished, the bisque firing was done and we were ready to apply a choice of glazes.

One can read all the great books available of raku pottery, but nothing compares to the hands-on experience. Even less prepares you for the raku firing which I am unable to describe. It was great to see transformation of the glazes and the end result of the firing. The raku firing included our families, friends, partners and lively expressions of joy and fun.

In the book Raku by John Mathieson, Horst Kirsten is quote as "To me this is like a piano concerto, the virtuosity within the throwing process gives me the greatest pleasure. The liveliness of a teabowl is of major signifigance to me. Thus, I rediscover Zen, and it is a touchstone for myself whether the receptacle has been a success or not".

The following web photo galleries can viewed:
Ceramics JCS studio
Building and glazing
First group raku firing
Second group raku firing

Should you be interested in doing a raku course contact Johan at info@ceramicsjcs.co.za