Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I've been working on more poinsettias... 
The finished pink poinsettias.

Red glitter poinsettias well as some other things and playing with a new technique. It's new to me, anyway!  It's called Faux Raku.  And what is raku? It is a form of pottery developed in Japan in the 1500's for use in the tea ceremony.  It has developed into an art form in the West and artists use different techniques to create it.  I was talking to my brother about it last night and he said he had watched raku being made.  He said they would throw things like leaves in with the pottery.  I was curious, so I Googled it.

Most raku has a crackled surface, although I'm not sure it all does.  I found one artist, William K. Turner, at Raku Art who has some absolutely gorgeous pieces! Many of his do not appear to be crackled, though some are.  In fact, I saw some with some areas that were crackled while other areas were not.  There is a local gallery that carries his work, so I may have to pay them a visit.

The process is basically the same for all raku pottery.  It is coated with a glaze and then heated very quickly in a kiln.  Once it reaches the maximum temperature, it is removed and placed in a "reduction chamber" which is where the leaves and other stuff come in.  Apparently, what you use in the reduction combined with the glaze you choose will determine the final effect and colors.  The way it is commonly done produces the crackled finish. 

After the piece is removed from the kiln, it is held in the air for several seconds to immediately begin the cooling process.  It is then put into the reduction chamber--quite often a garbage can--which is filled with the reduction material.  This can consist of such things as sawdust, straw, or leaves.  The red hot piece is put into the chamber full of the reduction material where it causes this material to burst into flame.  More reduction material is then poured on top and finally, the lid is put on to create an airtight seal which stops the oxidation process that creates the colors and also puts out the flames. When the piece comes out, usually after a very short time, it is covered with soot, but then is cleaned off to reveal the the finish.  

This is one of the places where William's technique differs. He lines his reduction chambers with newspaper and sets the piece upright.  He leaves it in longer and then puts it back in the kiln on a low heat to set the colors.  He says he never puts his in water.  Apparently, his process is a bit of a cross between the Western way of doing things and the Japanese way.  In Japan, they often set the glowing hot piece out in the open air to cool, but also do use reduction chambers.  Any way it is done, the result is quite random. There is no predicting exactly what you will get!

What does this have to do with Christmas and polymer clay?  Polymer clay can be made to look like just about anything and raku is no exception!  I had watched the tutorial on Faux Raku from Cindy Lietz, The Polymer Clay Tutor, and wasn't overly excited, although I did add it to my list of things to work on since it doesn't need sanding.  I didn't have the necessary supplies to do it, though, so I just didn't think much about it until...

I saw a picture on Cindy's Facebook page a few days ago of some gorgeous bracelets made using this technique. Suddenly, I was intrigued.  By this time, I had the necessary supplies, albeit in limited color choices!  I began to experiment and created some beads of my own:

Faux Raku beads in red and blue with gold

Faux Raku beads in blue and green with gold

Faux Raku beads in red, blue, and green with gold
I got a few more colors and had a brainstorm!  I have seen many colors of poinsettias and had already decided to try different techniques to come up with some of the various colors, like the mottled red and white ones that are called "Jingle Bells."  I haven't done that yet, by the way!  While the traditional red, white, and pink ones are the most popular, there are also blue ones, and purple ones, and a myriad of other colors!  Some are even a couple of colors combined. Check Google to see what I mean.

So, I decided to use purple and blue to see what I could come up with and I started getting really excited.  It was already looking fantastic! Yellow centers just didn't look right, so it was back to Google to look up more images.  The blue ones all seemed to have green centers, so I played with that a bit and decided it did look better.  I only did one, but when I got it all put together, I gave it a dusting of my new mica powder, then put it in my little toaster oven to cure.  As with the real raku, you never know just what you are going to get, but I do get to see what it will look like before it goes into the oven!  This piece will be available for sale as a pendant in my Etsy shop within the next few days.

Blue, purple and green poinsettia using the Faux Raku technique

By the way, I have seen various meanings for raku such as joy, happiness, comfort, and ease.  My favorite, though, came from a blog about ceramics and pottery. The definition there is "happiness in the accident!"  Joy and happiness in the randomness of the process!  No wonder I love this technique so much!


  1. What a fantastic way to combine the two techniques, Betty... I love that so many of Cindy's tutes are open-ended and it is easy to get creative. While I knew that the raku effect was induced with smoke, I had always suspected the technique was discovered accidentally, as are most artistic endeavors; so I love the definition you quote in the last paragraph. Hope you continue to create beauty with joy and randomness :)

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Monique! Cindy's tutes are wonderful and spark so many creative ideas! Makes it a lot of fun!

  2. Great job on the raku beads and the Poinsettias! It is nice to see you experimenting with the color combinations. And I agree with Monique on the quote and I live by those words.... Joy, Happiness and Randomness! Especially the randomness! ;)

    1. Thanks so much, Cindy! I have much more experimentation to do! So many ideas... so little time! I haven't even begun to try out all the techniques in the past issues of your member library that I have bought, so far. You have so many great tutes! I love your teaching style! I certainly agree about the randomness... have to reign myself in sometimes to stay focused long enough to finish something!