Raku on a Winter’s Day

One of our friends asked about our raku firing process. Some of the steps are just like any other pottery process: think of the great idea, make something close to the great idea, and bisque fire it. The glazing process this time was only slightly different from the norm: 2 thin coats of a copper matte glaze, versus the usual 3 coats for most other glazes.


Getting ready for the actual raku firing today involved some extra steps.

  1. Unload half of the shed, including all the patio furniture you stored for the winter, to get to the raku supplies. This confuses the neighbors and makes them wonder if you’re having an unusual yard sale.

  2. Spend a minimum of 5 minutes fussing about how cold it is. Briefly admire how awesome you look in your fuzzy red hat.

    Baby, it's cold outside!
    Baby, it’s cold outside!
  3. Get out the instructions so you can remember how to build the kiln.
  4. Make about 15 trips back and forth, in and out of the house, getting supplies you forgot.
  5. Make 20 trips to and from the shed to get all the fire bricks, shelves, and stilts to set up the kiln.
  6. Load your pieces and start the firing. Rex was in charge of all things combustible, including running to the nearest gas station to get another tank of propane because we have learned from past experience.
  7. Prepare the metal cans with newspaper and other combustibles. Jen was firing some special, delicate pieces today so she was in charge of this. Plus she is picky.

    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
    The metal can brigade, plus supplemental newspaper cones.
  8. Check the state of the kiln at least 4 dozen times.  Huddle around the kiln when you need to get warm.

  9. When all parties present agree the pieces are ready, put on your kiln-unloading gear. This includes a welder’s mask, leather apron, and Kevlar gloves. You won’t be recognizable, nor will you be able to hear anything, so plan to spend a minute or two shouting instructions at each other.
  10. Lift the lid off and get busy with your assigned task. Today, Rex was the unloading master, and Jen was the newspaper and can lieutenant. There are no pictures of this, since there were only 2 of us and no free hands to take photos.
  11. Burp the cans – take the lid off, fan it until the fire re-ignites, let it burn briefly, then cover again. Move to the next can and do the same thing. If thee can woofs at you, it’s even better. Note: do not lean over the can while doing this, as it is risky to the eyebrows.
  12. Walk away from the cans. You will want to look… don’t do it. Let the pieces cool down, and you can peek soon enough.
  13. You are already bored waiting on the cans to cool, so get out the router, a work table, and some wood you’ve been wanting to run through the router.
  14. Repeat step 4.
  15. Discuss how to use the router. Decide to read the instruction manual.
  16. Use the router together. Fuss about who is tilting the wood more. Decide that you are both under-equipped to use power tools. Make several attempts and decide your efforts are enough for today.
  17. Open the cans and see the awesomeness that has hatched. 2 pieces are pretty but cracked from the thermal shock. Breathe a sigh of relief that the others survived and are pretty! Pictures to follow soon…
  18. Go directly inside and take a hot shower, put on fuzzy pants, and take a nap.

Happy Accidents

I wanted to share a little something we’ve been working on, in hopes of conjuring more spring-like weather.  This fused glass plate started out as an accident and was compounded by a second accident.



Initial plan: use Glassline pens to “draw” a flower onto a yellow glass disk, tack fuse the design, then full fuse to a clear glass disk (same size).  Outcome: we accidentally ran a full fuse instead of a tack fuse, and glass being glass likes to be thicker than the single layer we fired.  (This happened to an entire kiln load, by the way.)  The edges pulled up and rounded beautifully, while the middle was a bit thinner.  It wasn’t what I had in mind but I thought it had potential… I just had to let the ideas percolate.


Next plan: I landed on the idea of making the yellow flower disk the foot of a clear glass plate.  Around the edges of the plate, I would write “loves me” and “loves me not.”  Rex suggested adding little bitty flowers between the phrases, losing one petal at a time.  I was not sold on the idea initially but decided to try it.  Tack fuse to set the lettering and petals: initiated.  Outcome: pretty close to what I had in mind.


Next step: we discussed at length the next steps of the fusing process and decided to slump the plate onto foot and into the plate mold in one step.  Outcome: I expected the plate to tack itself to the foot, but it slumped around the foot just a bit.  Not exactly what I had in mind but it wasn’t bad… except for the devitrification on the plate.  Argh!  We’ve done quite a few firings and almost never had devit.  After getting input from a super talented glass artist on what happened, we concluded that the yucky cloudy devit happened because we fired just a few pieces (instead of a full load) on the lowest shelf (which gets hotter on the bottom and had no shelf above to help radiate the heat downward).  Now what to do.


Experiment: Rex taped off the foot and sand-blasted the bottom of the plate.  The outcome is pictured… I’d call this one of the most pleasant surprises.  We hope you like it, too.

Tex the Cat: In Progress

Tex the Cat

Meet Tex… he’s a tall kitty (about 16″), hand-built using raku clay.  The photo is a little blurry but will give you the idea.  I don’t know what got into me with the cowboy theme.  Soon, I’ll add a sheriff’s badge and a vest… maybe a holster and chaps?  I’m picturing a copper matte glaze for his body (including head and ears), and maybe a lovely rich black raku glaze for his accoutrements.  What do you think?

Tex the Cat

When life hands you snow, make stuff out of it

Snow Cat

In late December, in central Ohio, we can (and do) get every kind of weather.  This year, it snowed.  And snowed some more.   We almost missed out on winter last year, and I was SO excited to get snow – right after Christmas, too!  And thus the opportunity presented itself for sculptures of a different kind.  Snow Kitty was born.


Snow CatHe has papyrus whiskers (from our now defunct plant) and coneflower seed heads for eyes (I found a few that the finches hadn’t decimated yet).  The only scarf I could put my hands on is the one my mom crocheted for me a few years ago… I figured she wouldn’t mind, since it was being used for “art.”


I built Snow Kitty in our back yard, facing the neighbors and primarily for their amusement.  They couldn’t resist the bait.  The next morning, a galvanized bucket with a few adult beverages had appeared beside Snow Kitty.  I guess he’d been out catting around.


Snow Kitty has a friend in the front yard now.  Just to his right is a snow “man” lying on the ground, with a nice, chubby belly, wearing a ball cap, sunglasses, and holding a beer in his right hand.


The neighbors haven’t said a word about the two new additions.  Yet.

Flamingoes at Night

Have you ever played an art prank on someone? Our latest art prank was inspired by a neighborhood where we run. Last summer, a flock of plastic flamingoes migrated from yard to yard over several months. The flock took on different configurations, and baby flamingoes joined the group at some point. We made up stories about how the neighbors pulled this off, and we cracked ourselves up thinking of ways we could join in the fun. Our own neighbors are funny, friendly, and good-natured… it’s only natural we would want to share the fun with them! Thus, Frankenmingo and Mummymingo came to be. We just sneaked over to our neighbor’s yard, in the dark and the icy rain, and planted the Halloween flamingoes under their little tree. My husband is their creator and he did a masterful job. Frankie is green and has a bolt sticking out of his neck, various painted stitches, and a black mohawk. Mummy is also green underneath, and he’s wrapped in gauze soaked in some homemade concoction, dusted with glow-in-the-dark spray paint, and has one googly eye. Can you picture them?

I realize it may be a stretch to call these flamingoes “art” or to elevate our goofy little adventure to an art prank. It was fun, though, and creative. I’ve really enjoyed photos and stories about yarn-bombing and people who plant original art in unexpected places for others to discover. I’d love to hear your stories about art pranks and other creative ways you’ve found to infect the world around you with art.