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Raku Pottery by Pat Hayden
11 October 2008
From a basis of formal study in fine art at the Cape Technikon majoring in sculpture, followed by 10 years of teaching pottery, Pat Hayden was drawn to the serendipitous nature of Raku pottery that offered her better avenues through which to express her creativity.
At the Country Craft Market on 11 October, as nature and the craft market come to life again with the onset of a somewhat delayed spring, Pat will be sharing some of her love for our furred and feathers friends, that she expresses in her Raku animal and bird creations.
Of all the crafts that are close to nature, Raku pottery probably comes high up, if not on top of the list. It depends completely on a close cooperation between the crafter and the elements of nature.
At its best, the process is exciting, risky and uniquely daring. For the Raku potter, it is a kind of confrontation with the elements that produces either a masterpiece of elegant simplicity (referred to as wabi in Japanese), or a pile of broken clay pieces - when the elements claim the trophy.
Pat Hayden is a born and bred Somerset Wester. Working from her local home-studio, she produces Raku ware, supplying her work to outlets both within South Africa and as far a field as England and the USA. Craft Markets offer her a direct-sales outlet.
The challenge of Raku pottery is not for the faint hearted potter, nor for the potter seeking uniformity of form and colour. The unpredictability and natural appearance of Raku pottery, made it an obvious choice for the cha-do (the way of tea) culture in Japan, reflecting the elegance of imperfection much admired by the Japanese. During the 16th century, Raku became established as the method of producing ceremonial tea-ware. In spite of the rugged fragility of these simple and eccentric utensils, many masterpieces of the 1500's are still extant, and highly prized.
Being an animal lover, Pat produces not tea-ware, but many different bird and animal forms that are both her tribute to the little creatures, but also mementos for visitors to our fair shores who want something lasting and decorative to take home as reminders of their visit to our nature-rich land.
Pat explained the process of producing her Raku pottery-wares. Having shaped the wet pottery forms, she dries them naturally before they are given a conventional first firing in an electric kiln that takes the pottery greenware slowly up to 1000 °C. This takes somewhere between 8 and 10 hours. Cooling is usually also done as slowly and the resulting bisqueware forms become the subjects for the somewhat more unconventional Raku firing.
Glazes are applied to the bisqueware and the Raku firing can proceed. This firing is done using gas to allow rapid heating of the pieces in the kiln. Within an hour, they are red hot. The next part breaks all conventional pottery rules. These red hot pieces are removed from the kiln with tongs, and plunged immediately into damp sawdust.
There is much sizzle and smoke and about 20 minutes later, the pieces have cooled enough and are scrubbed clean to reveal the results. This bizarre treatment causes cracking of the glazes and sometimes even the clay, producing pleasing but unpredictable crackle effects that give Raku its special character.
But why not come hear and see this all from her directly and view her end products? At the Country Craft Market of 11 October, Pat will be showing how she produces her birds and animals and looks forward to showing her creations to all visitors to the market.
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Last Updated 01 November 2017 16:11