Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Beginning pottery

Appreciation and making are completely different impulses when it comes to art. The first exercises that part of the brain given to intellectual pursuits as well as empathy. The other requires hand and eye coordination, some knowledge of the medium (clay, glazes and kiln temperature) and an idea of what you might like to see that was never in the world before - something out of imagination shaped by your own hands however clumsy!

Raku pot, hand shaped
Bunty O'Connor's Raku courses, conducted at the Ajoupa Studio in Chickland, are just right as an initiation to making art. Unlike writing or even painting which may be considered cerebral activities, pottery gives you the feel of the clay, cool damp and sticky. You can close down your mind for a bit and just feel your way. There's grain. There's density and pliability. How thin can you stretch it before it breaks. What's the squeeze factor - does it ooze between your clenched fingers or resist solidly? When you let your hands take over, you roll, flatten, shape. Make as many small objects as you can in 20 minutes is the first instruction.

Without thinking too much, you shape balls, rolls, little bowls, shapes that look like they might be creatures so you add mouth, ears, nose, hips, boobs, features. By the end of the session, there's your little army of sub-conscious forms to go through the first firing. Later on, you can apply colour with liquid glazes that give you no clue of what the finish might be like.

The final firing marries the glaze to the pot. When the baked temperature has been reached in the gas fired kiln, the red-hot pots are removed and placed in a bin of sawdust - which invariably catches fire in contact with the hot pots. This reduction at the surface produces unpredictable coloration and textures that have become characteristic of raku pots. (Raku pots originated in a particular place in Japan; they are usually hand-shaped; fired at "low" temperatures which makes them porous; and are removed from the kiln while still glowing hot to be cooled in a container of combustible material such as sawdust or wood shavings.)

Rory's pulley to lift the lid off the kiln

Red hot pots in the kiln

One of Bunty's Stations of the Cross comes out of the fire

Glowing hot pots are dropped into a bin of wood shavings

Loading and firing the kiln - a two person operation
Today, I offer you my first collection of "pots" made in one of Bunty's Raku courses. I have to admit that I did it with a half a mind, but a whole understanding that making a few pots does not make one a potter, or even an artist. But it was a start.

Star in a loop

Cross at crossroads

A dog like Sox

Mother and child with shelf for blessings

Two for companionship

Woman with horn 

A creature like ET

My first Raku pot, a solid base, flared edges crimped as thin as possible and magical colours

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