Japanese ‘Raku’ Pit Firing Day

Les Simpson, Waterside resident has brought his much-valued enthusiasm and wealth of pottery making experience to others at Middleton Hall. Last weekend, he organised a ‘Raku’ pit firing day whereby people who had made pots in our Art Studio had the opportunity to try a new, Japanese derived glazing technique for themselves.

Thanks to Les for his hard work in bringing the day together and for the following account of the experience:

On Friday 4th October, eleven budding potters applying the Raku glazes to their bisque fired works of art. We were joined by some very experienced potters, including Carolyn Corfield, who previously helped at one of our workshops and is currently featured at the ‘East Meets West’ exhibition at the Oriental Museum, Durham.

The glazes, along with the kiln were provided by Carol Newmarch, another very experienced and well-travelled potter. A feeling of apprehension was in the air whilst glazing, not knowing how each glaze might turn out!

On the Saturday, the gas fired kiln was ignited whilst we waited for our pots to emerge – removed from the kiln using long metal tongs. The fired pieces were placed in to a large drum of sawdust to cool the pieces rapidly. Lots of sparks and smoke!

On cooling down, the pots were cleaned in water using a brush or metal wire. During the day, other interested parties came to watch, and in true potter style, we had an informal lunch. For information some potters even like to camp out. Not me! The weather was ideal for the day. Some of the pieces will be on display in the cabinet in the Spa.

Thanks to Carol and of course to Middleton Hall for having such delightful facilities. We are really lucky.