Saturday, August 07, 2010

Portrait of a Young Artist's Work

"The open house was a lot of fun and it was exciting to see a good turnout of people for it," says potter Jamie Cooper.

"The raku kiln I am using is called a Clay dog raku kiln, made in Nixa, Missouri. Mom and I went there and picked it up a few weeks before the open house. They also make wonderful glazes that I am currently using on my work, white crackle is one of my favorites, the turquoise copper is giving great results, and I am trying to figure out the copper matte (gonna be great once I understand it better!!!)

"The kiln is powered by a propane tank outside on my concrete patio, away from anything that might catch on fire. The kiln is heated up with the work inside to about 1200-1400 degrees, until the glaze matures and gets shiny (approximately 30minutes). Then the propane tank is turned off, the lid is removed and the work is ready to go into a reduction chamber, a metal can with a lid containing newspaper or some other material that will burn. Some glazes act better if they are let sit for a few minutes, then placed in the can. The lid is put on and they stay in there for about 15 minutes or longer. This reduction process creates a beautiful effect with the crackle glazes in that the smoke invades the clay and gives unique results. The firing process is often a risky one because the work can break, explode, or stick together when being removed from the firing chamber (raku kiln). And it is VERY HOT, however, the excitement and amazing colors, unpredictableness, and pyromaniac in us makes it worth all the effort.

"After the pieces have been in the reduction and sufficiently smoked they are plunged into a bucket of water. This is a step that is sometimes skipped depending on the type of pieces being fired, bottlenecked pieces will shoot out boiling water and some pieces explode when placed in the water, they are still very hot! However it speeds up the process of getting to see how the glazes turned out and is a step that i almost always include. I'm usually very ready to see the end result. It's better than Christmas!

"When they come out they often have to be scrubbed down to get the soot and tar off. Lots of steps involved, many opportunities for pieces to get broken, explode etc....All very much worth it though."--Jamie Cooper

Pictured above is L to R: Jamie Cooper, Judy Cooper and family friend Mary.

(c) 2009 - Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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