Raku is my favorite way of firing clay...it is dynamic, alive and relatively unpredictable. Western Raku is a process in which the work is created and fired in the studio, and later glazed and fired a second time in a small outdoor kiln. The pots are heated to 1000 degrees centigrade, red heat, which takes about a hour per kiln load. The glowing pots are then removed from the kiln with long tongs and are subjected to post-firing reduction, or smoking. Each piece is carefully placed into a small covered container of combustible materials; straw, pine needles or wood chips work well. The red hot pot causes the combustible material to burst into flames creating billows of smoke which blackens the raw clay and causes the glazed surface to lightly crack as it cools. Depending on the desired result, the pot may then be lifted from the fire and placed in water where it steams and bubbles as it cools; or it may cool slowly in it’s bed of natural materials. Depending on the glaze effect desired, the potter may change the atmosphere within the cooling container, allowing oxygen to enter briefly or possibly throwing more combustible material or water onto the still hot pot. The process is exciting, dramatic, spontaneous and a bit dangerous, which is part of the allure. One needs to let go of preconceived expectations and give in to the fire. Not all pots make it through the extremes of temperature and atmosphere during the process and raku pots have glazes and surfaces that are dramatic, mysterious and unexpected.