Friday, 14 May 2010


Annick Cammarata makes graceful figures in pottery using Raku techniques. You can see some of them here. We first met her a couple of years ago when we went to collect one of her pieces that we had bought at an exhibition. Since then we have been asking her when she was going to do a course and finally, after she had moved house, just over the border into the Aveyron, and her husband Paul had built a studio, we went there in April and May.
We needed two days because in April we made the items, then they have to thoroughly dry and have their first 1000 deg C biscuit firing. I made four bowls and an angora goat. Christiane made a bowl, an irregular shaped box with a lid and a large platter. I had told Christiane before we went that I wanted to make a goat like the ones at La Ferme de Siran above Autoire and even when I was over halfway through the modelling process she was sceptical. Fortunately I seem to have a minor talent for this sort of thing and with some helpful advice from Annick it turned out very well. Annick remarked on the speed with which I was able to make the bowls. We timed the last one and it took twenty minutes. This was using a turntable and my fingers, not a potter’s wheel which would be far quicker but is much more difficult.

In May we returned to do the glazes and the dramatic second firing. Annick had mixed various glazes and fired a sample piece so that we would have an idea of the colours that are possible. Glazes can be painted on using a brush like the bowls or poured on like the platter.
It is during the second firing that the Raku process is used to make the glazes produce their colours and the characteristic cracked finish. The pieces are heated to 950 deg C in the kiln and then quickly removed and put on a bed of sawdust and wood shavings in a container. More sawdust is thrown on top and the container is sealed. The smoke blackens unglazed surfaces and restricting the ingress of air generates reducing conditions which creates the colours and sheen of the metal oxide glazes. At the same time the thermal shock cracks the glazes and sometimes the smoke penetrates the cracks making interesting patterns.

When they have cooled you have the excitement of revealing the colours as you clean the pieces up with water and a scouring pad. Raku is rather a chancy process and colours don’t always come out as expected. Sometimes you get fewer colours and more metallic sheen, at other times a particular glaze gives neither colour nor sheen and ends up grey, but even then it usually looks interesting. Both of us really like what we produced. The only real investment is a kiln and I could easily imagine taking up Raku as a hobby.

By the way, in case you were wondering, the angora goat is called Mildred.


Post a Comment