A Raku vase by potter Ned Corron at Zero Sullivan Arts (CONTRIBUTED)
A Raku vase by potter Ned Corron at Zero Sullivan Arts (CONTRIBUTED)

Archived Story

Chemical reactions with raku yield beautiful art pieces at Bob Jones

Published 5:17pm Wednesday, April 24, 2013

MADISON – Local potters shared the ancient art of raku at Bob Jones High School, not only producing stunning art pieces but demonstrating laws of science.

Art teachers Robin Lakso, Jennifer Norton and Katelyn Craft invited Ned Corron and David Edwards, potters from Zero Sullivan Arts in downtown Madison at Sullivan and Main streets. Corron and Edwards brought firing equipment and tools to step the students’ glazed pieces through various chain reactions.

Raku dates to a 16th-century Japanese monk who fired bowls with unique shapes, textures and surfaces for the Japanese tea ceremony. Oxidation causes the variations.

“Unlike traditional kiln firing that takes many hours, Raku firings can be described as ‘fast and furious’ — often even a social event,” Lakso said.

Most kiln use ‘bricks’ and a cover about .75-inch thick made from material like the space shuttles’ heat shields, light and sturdy to withstand extreme heat.

“They are pulling clay pieces out of fire,” Norton said as the potters unloaded the kiln. “The fire is about 1,900 degrees. The pieces have been glazed so you can see the really beautiful colors.”

Next, Corron and Edwards put the pieces that students had made and glazed into metal containers with newspapers. Then, they covered the containers with a lid. “The burning newspapers will again change the process with the oxygen,” Norton said. “After a few minutes, they put water in, which also changes colors.”

“Smells like Dollywood,” Bob Jones Principal Robby Parker joked, who filmed the event for his “Principal’s Corner” webcast. “I don’t know why, but it does.”

“We had six different glazes to choose from. Some come out really green … or silver. You never know what you’re going to get,” Norton said. The finished pieces were iridescent silvers, greens and purples.

Art classes assembled in the school’s courtyard for the demonstration. Other students in chemistry, physics and engineering also observed the chemical changes that occurred during the firing process, making the event a cross-curricular experience.

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