Gina Mitchel - Raku

 

I've been a resident of Edmonton, Alberta since 1988 and lived in Jasper, Alberta for six years in the early 90's.  While a resident of Jasper, I began my journey as a self-taught clay artist focusing on Raku Firing.  All of my pieces are hand-built with coil and/or slab technique.   I prefer these methods of construction over using a potters wheel.  I'm attracted to assymetric shapes for my Raku Vessels.  My Raku Faces and Raku Figures incorporate all aspects of design with positive and negative space, shape, texture, balance, pattern and color.  Each piece is unique. Themes are in place but the pieces will not be duplicated.

 

 Jasper, Alberta - 1991-1996 - Self-taught clay artist specializing in Raku Firing

Knowledge of different clay properties and sculpting techniques in traditional practices, i.e. coil and slab, as well as firing techniques in a kiln by regulating proper loading techniques and temperatures.  Mixed my own glazes used specifically for Raku firings.  Marketed and sold my work in various galleries.  I attended a week-long potters retreat at Whispering Pines Ranch in Southern Alberta.  Over 50 artists attended to share their knowledge and participate in about 10 different types of outdoor firing techniques.  Three professional guest ceramists attended and put on demonstrations.  Later that year, I had a solo exhibtion at the Jasper Museum for one month.  I had the opportunity to organize three selective art shows at the Jasper Museum to represent Jasper artists.  Food & Beverage was donated by local restaurants and Live Entertainment was provided by local musicians.

 

For the past 18 years, I have always given my creative flair to everything I do at work and home.  I have been back in production for the past two years creating Raku Sculptures.  I'm always expanding my knowledge and honing my skills.

 

What is Raku?

Raku is an outdoor firing process that uses both fire and smoke to create unique patterns and designs. The Raku Faces, Raku Vessels and Raku Figures are first bisque fired, then are glazed in preparation for a raku firing process. Raku firings require a special Raku kiln that is fueled by propane or gas and requires temperatures to reach 1,600°F to 1,800°F depending on the glaze's melting point.

Once the glazes have melted, the Raku Sculpture is removed from the Raku kiln using specially designed Raku tongs. While the Raku Sculpture is still hot and glowing, it is placed inside a metal can full of combustible materials. Straw, leaves, sawdust and newspaper are the most popular items. The heat emitted from the Raku Sculptures causes the materials to catch on fire immediately.

A lid is then placed on the can and the Raku Sculpture is sealed inside. Some Raku artists opt to "burp" the can after a bit to allow more oxygen into the can which will affect the final result. Generally speaking, the less oxygen in the can, the more copper coloring will result. My Raku Faces, Raku Vessels and Raku Figures are able to withstand these high temperatures and the fire within the can because the Raku Sculptures are made from a special type of clay with a higher grog content making it capable of withstanding thermal shock. Traditional pottery clays, on the other hand, would crack from the drastic temperature changes.

The black coloration is created from the smokey atmosphere in the can which is absorbed into the clay wherever glaze is not applied. Raku Faces, Raku Vessels and Raku Figures are ideal for a unique piece of Raku art in your home and is not meant to serve food or beverage because some glazes contain toxic chemicals.  The Raku Sculptures are pourous as well so the Raku Vessels will not hold water unless they are sealed.

 

Code Of Ethics