Raku pottery is a ceramic firing process. Here, beautiful patterns and designs are created with the application of fire and smoke. It makes use of a specialized raku kiln, which is hooked up to a propane source. Temperatures of the kiln can skyrocket to 1800°F (approximately 982°C). The pots are baked in these high temperatures for about half an hour, before being carefully removed with special raku tongs.
Almost immediately—with the piece still red-hot and glowing—it is plunged into a metal can that holds several combustible materials. The piece sets the materials on fire. The potter must then cover the can, sealing in the piece. The fire consumes oxygen, pulling it out from the clay and the glaze. This leads to beautiful, if unpredictable, colors and patterns. This is called “post fire reduction.” This step lasts for 15 minutes. After that, the piece is removed and plunged into a can of cold water, to stop the heating process and “freeze” the patterns.
Since most materials would disintegrate in these extraordinary conditions, raku pottery must be made from a special clay. The raku potter must also take great, great care during this procedure—the high temperatures can cause serious health risks and dangers. It is essential for the potter to wear safety gear, such as gloves and protective clothing, as well as eye goggles. He must also get training in how to use the equipment, and master the delicate balance of when to remove the pot from the heat.