Bishop’s Stortford College’s art students have been experimenting with raku firing. Using a kiln built by the college’s artist-in-residence, Chris Sutherland, pupils were given the opportunity to try a different method of firing their work.
Raku is a more complex process than conventional firing and involves removing pots from the kiln at 1,000 degrees and placing them in bins full of combustible materials that give unpredictable qualities to the work. By placing the pots in a reduction atmosphere that is starved of oxygen, the flames draw oxygen out of the copper oxide in the glaze mixture to give a range of colours and effects; these are then enhanced by the smoke from the combustible materials post-firing. The kiln was built on the green outside the Walter Strachan Art Centre on campus.
The raku kiln is part of the art department’s aim to help pupils realise their ambitions, to encourage them to push their boundaries and to try something new. Raku firing is usually a technique only offered by universities. Work from the upper fifth, lower sixth and upper sixth were fired with results from crackled blacks and whites to coppers and metallic-looking glazes.