Raku: Ancient Art of Firing
The firing technique of Raku originated some 400 years ago in Japan.
The name, "Raku", first appeared in sixteenth century
Japan and roughly translated it meant contentment, enjoyment, and
pleasure. It was, and still is used among tea masters during the
Zen tea ceremony.
The Raku process involves first applying a glaze to a bisque, or
once fired, ceramic piece. Usually by brushing, pouring or dipping.
The piece is then fired to a temperature close to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the kiln has reached this temperature and the glazes have matured,
the fuel supply is shut off, the kiln is opened, and the red hot
pieces are removed with tongs or heavy duty gloves. Traditionally,
these glowing pieces were either air cooled or dipped into a container
of water. A more contemporary approach involves placing the hot
pieces into a metal container filled with combustible materials
such as, newspaper, sawdust, or leaves. The container is then covered
which creates a lack of oxygen. This causes the combustibles to
smoke heavily. Smoke penetrates clay and glaze, turning bare clay
black and creating metallic flashes or crackles on the glazes depending
upon their composition.
After smoking from anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours or
even overnight pieces are removed from the cans, usually covered
in soot and ash. Finally, the unwanted dinginess has to be scrubbed
Every Raku piece is unique, no two will ever be exactly the same,
and as you can see a lot of care and work goes into each one.
The conventional production of ceramics implies tree firings : single
fire, second fire and third fire.
In my case, over a piece made by “industrial gres”,
already glazed and subjected to two previous firings, the last phase
of decoration production is the application of the gold “oro
This last phase is colled thirds fire or “piccolo fuoco”.