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Raku Process and its Origins
Raku is essentially a style of pottery firing which involves quickly heating wares in a kiln normally fired outdoors. Traditionally kilns were fuelled by split wood or coal, but many Potters today use Propane Gas, as the temperature can be more carefully controlled.
Its origins of course lie in the Zen Buddhist Tea Ceremony and the humble little black and red tea bowls first produced by Chojiro in Japan. The Raku family themselves continue this tradition towards the present day. In traditional Raku ware the work is drawn from the kiln red hot and exposed to the air- doused in water or rolled in grass or leaves to cool. The effect is of a typically Oxidised surface- muted, understated – yet one of natural beauty and simplicity.
Western Raku is a total contrast. Here the wares are drawn from the kiln in the typical Raku style, with tongs, but instead they are placed in a chamber (normally an old dustbin) full of combustible materials- such as leaves or wood shavings. This then ignites and produces lots of flames and smoke! The lack of oxygen present causes a reduction process to begin.
This allows the metallic elements within the Glaze’s oxides to react. A wide spectrum of effects and variations is possible, from metallic lustres and textures to the familiar crazing and smoke blackened lines caused by the cooling process. Western Raku lends itself to experimentation – yet it still shares the same spontaneity and freedom evident in those original humble tea bowls produced in Japan.
Shaun Hall Raku
Copper Matt Method
Shaun works in both glazed Raku producing highly glossy metallic wares and heavily textured lava glazes. However, he is perhaps better known for using Copper matt slips.
This is a technically challenging and often elusive version of Raku firing. The pot or ware is coated in a thin copper matt slip. It is then placed in a kiln and subsequently withdrawn at a higher than normal temperature for Raku at about 1020-1040oc.
Instead of being plunged into a bin full of combustible materials and smokes, Shaun places the work on a circular bed of wood shavings. This causes flames to lick around the sides of the vessel. More wood shavings are sprinkled around the pot for up to 2 minutes, before a metal bin is placed over the work, sealing in the air. Wood shavings seal the base of the bin.
Depending on the size of the pot being fired- the work is then left to cool for between 10-15 minutes. A short burst of air is then let in by lifting the bin a little- and the pot is again left to cool for a similar period. This is repeated until the pot is cool enough to handle.
This burst of air allows a period of reoxidisation/reduction and dramatically causes the spread of the Copper Matt lustre and its’ dramatic colours. Vivid areas of metallic copper bloom can result- with anything possible from salmon pink, rust, gold, green blue, orange and red.
It has been described as the most challenging of all Raku firing techniques to master. Many variables can upset the outcome- from the “internal”-the kiln firing temperature reached- to the “external”- the temperature outside on the firing day. (A hot or cold day can sometimes cause a wide variation in cooling/reduction rates thus affecting colour development) Even the type of wood shavings used can cause problems. Lastly, The dramatic cooling rate and the sudden exposure of the pot to the outside air can cause firing cracks.
Despite these factors- Copper Matt Raku remains one of the most enigmatic and beguiling of all the varied and experimental Western Raku techniques. Perhaps though, it is the mastery of this technique required by the Potter –coupled with the almost fleeting transcience of colour, surface and “ other worldliness”- which lie at the heart of its appeal. Certainly a good Copper Matte pot is a stunning thing and consequently absolutely unique.
Shaun Hall has developed quite a reputation for working in this medium and –uniquely- with slab built sculptural wares. His work can be seen in two recently published books- 500 Raku by Lark/US and Handmade in Britain by Vivays- both published in 2011/12.
View Shaun’s work in our Ceramics section
A London exhibition which starts today seeks to combat the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder through the medium of art. A series of artists personally affected by SAD have been commissioned by Studio C&C to create artworks to help combat symptoms of the disorder which affects between 5- 10% of the population.
One piece of work included in the project is a sheet of blotting paper soaked in Vitamin D, which is lacking when we are not exposed to sunlight, whilst others are simply intended to inspire cheer.
Symptoms of SAD are generally caused by lack of sunlight and so are heightened during winter months. Those affected can suffer from depression, lack of motivation and decreased energy levels.
The launch event itself is set to be a kind of escapism from winter and a chance to view the artwork as well as the accompanying ‘SAD Rescue Pack’ book, which has been compiled by the participating artists.
The exhibition runs from Thursday 19th Feb until Sunday 22nd Feb at Protein Gallery Space, London.
Starting on May 9th 2016, four of my Summer themed paintings are being used in a TV ad which is running during Good Morning Plus on ITV. The ad is for Opticrom eye drops who are sponsoring the program so their ads feature at beginning of ad breaks and at the ends. Four different paintings were used showing a figure magically appearing out of the background and rubbing their eyes which smears the face paint they were wearing to cleverly highlight how summer can cause itchy eyes!
The thing happened out of the blue when a nice lady who works for ITV was looking for ‘summer themed’ paintings and had found me on an artist’s directory website. She contacted me because some of my paintings are of flower meadows and are large. I did not get paid as such but what she did was buy 4 prints of the paintings from Point 101 (who are a great fine art printers I use to fulfil my print orders) and these were large enough for the actual filming. Afterwards, she gave me the 4 prints which I can sell.
No-one will know the paintings in the ads are mine but it has made my parents happy and is a nice thing to add to my news site so it was good. It may be encouraging to other artists that simply continuing to keep putting your name out there does sometimes pay off!
On an interesting aside – two of the paintings featured in the ads sold in the first week the ads began to run even though the buyers had not seen the ad and I had, in fact, painted them over a year ago – spooky eh?
The Turbine Hall is busy.
People are crowding and looking over the balcony. They are looking at soil and the sculpture by Abraham Cruzvillegas is a success.
Cruzvillegas filled small triangular lots with soil from a range of parks, commons and green spaces across London to see what would happen. The Empty Lot.
At the beginning, nobody knew what would happen. Maybe nothing. It was part sculpture and part agricultural experiment. Nothing was planted by the artist or by Tate Modern. The plants/fungi visible arrived by one of the following means:
– Existing seeds within the soil
– Seeds/spores travelling in the air
– Seed-bombing by the public
At the end of the experiment we can see the results and view the small plants as signs of hope from within a metropolitan wilderness. There is potential.
Cruzvillegas was inspired by his knowledge of ancient agricultural methods used to farm the area that is now Mexico City.
We are lucky that we have been able to bask in the calmness of this accidental garden.
Tate Liverpool will be showcasing the largest collection of Jackson Pollock’s ‘Black Pour’ paintings ever seen together in the UK for a new show running until 18th October 2015. This is the first exhibition in 30 years to focus on this specific area of his work.
The Black Pourings were part of a significant change in style for Pollock who had been working on his colourful, abstract drip paintings for the previous 4 years. During a difficult period of his life, which began in 1951, Pollock decided that he wanted a change of style and moved away from the ‘drip’ method towards the ‘pour’ method, continuing in his ‘Action Painting’ style. The works use black enamel paint poured onto unprimed canvas. His use of black can be seen as an attempt to defy critics who believed his work to be wthout substance and ‘decorative’. He would work in a barn with the canvas unstretched and spread out across the floor, approaching the canvas from different sides and angles. Pollock was to succumb to his addiction to alcohol, and ‘painter’s block’ followed in 1953.
The exhibition also shows some of Jackson Pollock’s earlier paintings to give the viewer a broad overview of his work and a chance to see the black pour paintings in the context of his career as a whole.
Read more about Blind Spots at Tate Liverpool
Cover Image: ‘Kites’ by Jan Rippingham after Jackson Pollock
MIF this year started on 2nd July and will be running until 19th July. This bi-annual festival showcases new art, music and theatre performances by many well-known artists. The festival was the brainchild of Alex Poots following the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. He saw Manchester as a city capable of holding such large -scale events and also as a major cultural hub. He is well aware of Manchester’s past and it’s forerunning during the music scenes of 80’s and 90’s. He saw the re-invention of Manchester through Tony Wilson’s ‘Factory’ record label.
Poots suggested to Manchester Council a festival which would be led by artists, be completely independent of the council and only showcase new work.
MIF has previously seen new work unveiled by the likes of Bjork, Damon Albarn and Kenneth Branagh.
This year’s festival includes Richter/ Pärt. This is a project which took years to plan and can be attributed to Alex Poots’ introduction of artist Gerhard Richter and composer Arvo Pärt. This creative partnership has inspired both parties to create new work with and for each other. Richter has produced 4 new works alongside Pärt’s Drei Hirtenkinder aus Fátima.
Tickets to Richter/ Pärt are free and this show will run at The Whitworth Gallery until 19th July.