Raku pottery

Raku pottery is known for its unpredictable patterns and unique glaze effects.  

A Raku bowl by Chojiro, the first Raku potter.

For centuries the beauty, philosophy, and element of surprise found in this technique has appealed to potters and pottery art collectors from around the world.

Japanese wood-fired ceramics
Masakazu Kusakabe and Marc Lancet.
Iola, WI : KP Books, c2005.
Discover the traditions, techniques and technology behind the age-old Japanese art of wood-fired ceramics. Shrouded in mystery for centuries, especially in the Western world, the artistry behind Japanese-style wood-firing comes into the light in "Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics." Authors Masakazu Kusakabe and Marc Lancet share everything you need to know to begin or improve as a wood-fire artist or connoisseur in this comprehensive reference to firing effects and techniques, surface development and kiln building. Features include: Step-by-step instructions to build two proven wood-fire kilns: the Dancing Fire Wood Kiln and the Sasukenei Smokeless Kiln, The first comprehensive English-language guide to yohen, the Japanese classification of wood-firing effects, colors and surfaces, Tried-and-true recipes for a variety of wood-fire glazes, A comprehensive guide through all six stages of the wood-firing process, Japanese insights into rarely discussed techniques and practices of wood-fired ceramics, More than 700 illustrations and full-color photographs. Book jacket.

Brushes commonly used for decorating and glazing Raku:

1 Glazing mop
2, 3 and 4 Fude types
5,6 and 7 Hake types
8 Hakeme type

Raku traces its origins to both Japanís Raku family and Zen Buddhist monks in the 16th and 17th centuries.  In these years, Raku became tied closely to the rituals and philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony. 

The current generation of the Raku family continues to create tea and other pieces that reflect Japanese traditions and methods.  But as potters outside Japan became interested in Raku, different methods evolved. Modern potters, including many from throughout the U.S. reflect the influence of well-know artisans like Bernard Leach, Warren Gilbertson, Yvonne Tucker, and Paul Soldner.

A tophat raku kiln uses a pulley device to lift the firing chamber away from the kiln pad

What is it about the Raku technique itself that sets it apart?  Unlike other pottery techniques that use a wheel, all true Raku pieces are handmade.  Special clays and glazes are used.  Unusual kilns, many homemade, play a crucial role in creating Raku objects. 

The biggest difference between Raku and other pottery is the method of glaze firing and the continuous involvement of the potter throughout the whole process of production. 

No two Raku potters or Raku pieces are alike.  Experience the distinctive Raku technique not only in tea utensils, but also vases, bowls, boxes, mirrors and wall panels.  It is impossible not to feel their art and craftsmanship.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff