As part of the school’s STE@M Festival, A Level Art Craft & Design, 3D Design and Chemistry groups took part in a Raku workshop. Raku is a type of glazed Japanese ceramic ware that was traditionally used for the tea ceremony but which is now often used for studio art pottery. 

Ahead of the workshop, the students made their own pieces, ranging from textured tiles to pots and vases, from a heavily grogged clay which is able to withstand the extreme temperatures used in Raku. The pieces were bisque fired in the school kiln and then two different glazes were applied.

On the day of the workshop, John and Janet Evans, specialists in Ruku, set up a kiln at school and the pieces were loaded into it. Once the kiln reached 1000 degrees the pieces were removed and placed into metal bins full of newspaper and wood chippings.

The paper and wood ignited on contact with the hot ceramic. The lids were then put on the bins and damp towels placed over them. In these bins the fumes and smoke got to work, having different effects on those areas that were glazed compared to those that were not. After 10 minutes the pieces were removed from the bins (with metal tongs) and quenched in a bucket of cold water. Once cooled, the work was scrubbed with wire wool to reveal different colours, lustres and smoke effects.

By the end of the process there was a range of colours and patterns on the ceramic pieces. For the art students, this was a great experience as they were able to try a new technique that is usually not available to them. It was a good example of how art can link with other subjects, such as Chemistry. Many could also tie their pieces in with their A Level art projects.

The Chemistry students were able to see the reduction process in action (as oxygen was removed from the glazed surfaces of the pieces once they were placed in a lidded bin) and widen their knowledge with the use of visual and physical references.

Overall this was a great experience for all and was a perfect addition to STE@M Festival.

By A Level student, Emily.

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