Review of RAKU workshop, by  Nicole Hollingworth, a ceramicist, PSAD Friends committee.

If you like your pottery with a frisson of danger then do try a RAKU workshop. I spent a wonderful day doing just that in Somerset one day in April with potter Becci Landrock. RAKU was initially developed in Japan in the 16th Century and has since become highly valued for it’s rustic, imperfect beauty. This much more organic method of firing also has an immediacy as it is faster than traditional kiln firings. Pots are hand built in a Raku clay and bisque fired before the process. ( Becci has an excellent supply of ready made work or you can bring your own.) Raku glazes are then applied before the pots are placed inside a kiln which is slowly heated to the required temperature. After about an hour they are removed from the kiln while still glowing hot and the air reacts with the glaze creating a tinkling noise. These hot pots are then placed into a metal container filled with combustible materials, like sawdust and paper, and covered with a lid for about 10-15 minutes. The effects of the fire taking oxygen out of the clay and the smoke reacting with the glaze results in pots that produce some wonderfully unique colours and effects. I don’t want to go into the technicalities in too much detail as we covered a variety of smoke firing and decorating methods involving an assortment of materials like horse hair, banana peels, feathers, and soggy tea bags. This is a process that is fascinating and needs to be ‘done’ to be fully appreciated. The one day workshop was superbly run and organised by Becci and we came away with some fabulous finished pieces.

If you fancy a break in Somerset I can highly recommend a course with Becci. She’s running two one week courses in the Summer , 22-27 July and 12-18 August, and the added attraction is the wonderful lunches cooked by her husband David. There are lots of lovely B&Bs in the area.

See Becci’s website for a detailed list of both short and long courses on offer.

Review and photographs by Nicole Hollingworth.