Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fire and Smoke

Friday I took my advanced ceramics students on a field trip. The morning started out doing a raku fire. Raku is really fun and intense. 
Using a simple single burner kiln you fire the kiln to 1900 degrees (relatively low-temp)

 Take the pot out red hot.

Throw it in a garbage can full of combustibles (leaves or newspaper).

Put the lid on.

Then take it out and dowse it with water.
 My students have been prepping for today for weeks. Each student made a pot in class with a special clay, that we took with us to the fire.

Here is how it works.

The kiln heats up fairly rapidly-melting the glaze, but until 1850 the glaze is UGLY.  I tried to get a picture of it, but the exposure on my camera did not understand my intentions   it is bubbly and gross and actually fills the void inside the pot with yucky bubbles. All of a sudden between 1850 and 1900 degrees it lays down, smooth and perfect.

The kiln is opened and the pots are quickly removed.  It has to be quick or the color/sheen/surface of the glaze will be changed (not in a good way) by the oxygen in the air.

Then straight to the trashcan.  Why? you may ask, well go ahead and ask it.  One of my students asked that exact question at least six times.

The trashcan full of combustibles creates an oxygen free (or reduction) environment.  You see fire needs oxygen to burn.  The combustibles want to/ need to burn (they just had an 1800 degree pot thrown on them).  But the fire quickly eats all the oxygen and the smoke and reduction are what forms the glazing patterns.

At this point we sprayed water into the trashcans, also to seal in the surface.

After 5 minutes or so the pots are removed from the trash and dowsed in water.  They are still HOT at this point and it makes for some pretty impressive steam!

Now you are an expert, but why do you care?
I have been thinking a lot about "Fire" and "Smoke" lately.  The things that happen in your life that change who you are and create the surface of your, lets call it "Soul", for want of a better word.

Fire can be a lot of different things;
Stupid knees
or literally Fire. (see Here)
      This past week my amazing friend Jenn's garage caught on fire.  For the time being their house is unlivable and they are without most of their worldly possessions.
Fire is Painful.

Smoke is what comes from fire, the visible signs of fire, the leftovers.
Call it damage. (Jenn does)
Or call it growth. (Someday she will)
Smoke is what Fire leaves behind.  The tiny changes to Character, the Fear and Nightmares, the Strength, the Resilience.
All of these things are gifts, because they create in us the ability to be made beautiful by the "Fire" we all will encounter.
Smoke is the light touch of God, lets call him a potter,
 that prepares our hearts and souls to be more like Him.  The beauty that the Fire leaves behind, comes from the Smoke.

Fire by definition, sucks, and always will suck, but you have to have fire to get Smoke.
O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
                            Jeremiah 18:6
Someday, we will be able to see the patterns that the smoke has left and the beauty and strength it left behind.

P.S. Field Trip Day was AWESOME.  One of my new favorite teaching days!


Maggie Hurst said...

Woman! You- Are- Amazing!

First off let me say how grateful I was to see that it was POTTERY that was on fire and not your car/house. I was nervous for a bit.

Pretty amazing what fire can do and I love your analogy for life. So true. Fire is painful. But can have amazing results. Like forests that can't regrow unless a huge fire sweeps through because some pine seeds don't open except under extreme heat.

Love you.
Hang in there.
PS- Congratulations on your new limp free status. :)

Julie said...

I have wondered about raku and now I know. Thank you for this inspiring post. And I should thank you properly for the tray you made and sent with Maggie 2 Christmases ago. I love it and use it daily. It is on the counter now piled with oranges and lemons and avocadoes. Sometimes I take fresh fruit off and use it on the dinner table for dinner. Thank you for sharing your art.

Julie said...

*on the dinner table for bread*

Elise said...

Well said, Tawny.

I'll need to reread this one.

It just occurred to me - do I owe you a phone call?! Was I supposed to call you about something?! I am SO FORGETFUL lately! Argh!