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How to Make a Raku Vase

Use double firing and stenciling techniques to create the distinctive raku look.

Materials:

white stoneware clay
potter's wheel
bat
cutoff wire
needle tool
rubber rib
trim tool
sponge
liquid wax resist
blue painter's tape
pencil
picture of whales
sheet of thick clear plastic
permanent marker
craft knife
banding wheel
white crackle and copper blue raku glaze
air compressor
glaze sprayer
paintbrushes of various sizes
bisque kiln
small gas kiln
metal trash can with lid
sawdust
newspaper
welding goggles
heavy-duty leather gloves
dust mask
hat (baseball cap)
raku tongs
steel wool

Steps:

1. Cut off about 5 pounds of clay about the size of a small melon.

2. Shape the clay into a ball by smacking and pounding it with your hands.

3. Attach the bat to the potter's wheel and put the ball of clay in the center of the bat.

4. With the wheel turning, dip your hands in water and gently push down on the top of the clay, and then squeeze in on the sides to get it centered.

5. With your thumb, find the center and gently push down, making a hole in the middle and stopping about ¼-inch from the bat.

6. With a sponge, squeeze water over the sides to lubricate the clay.

7. Form the bottom of the pot by pulling your fingers inside at the bottom of the hole.

8. With one hand inside and one hand directly opposite it on the outside of the hole in the clay, pinch your fingers together and pull up. Repeat this until the walls of your pot are about ¼-inch thick.

9. Compact the rim by placing a finger on the inside of the rim and your thumb on the outside and gently pushing down with your index finger of your other hand.

10. Holding a rubber rib on the outside of the pot, push out with the inside hand to form the vase shape.

11. Let it dry overnight.

12. Cut your pot off the bat and turn it upside down on a clean bat on the wheel.

13. Carefully re-center it on the wheel and hold it in place with small wads of clay.

14. Using a trim tool, carefully trim off the excess clay. Smooth the trimmed surface.

15. Let dry for three to four days.

16. When the pot is completely dry, place it in an electric or gas kiln and very slowly raise the temperature of the kiln until it reaches 1,860 degrees Fahrenheit, about 12 hours. Let cool for 24 hours.

17. To make a stencil, trace the whale shapes onto a sheet of thick clear plastic with a permanent marker. Cut out the whale shapes with a craft knife.

18. Place the pot on a banding wheel and draw a circle on the bottom of the pot with a pencil. Place a piece of blue painter's tape at that line to indicate where the glaze will stop.

19. Draw the killer-whale images on the base with a pencil and the stencil.

20. Paint on the white spots of the whale with white glaze and a small paintbrush.

21. Fill in the whale images with liquid wax resist, where it should remain black.

22. Mask off the top and inside of the vase with blue tape and newspaper.

23. Wearing a mask, place the vase on a banding wheel outdoors and, while turning it, spray a thin coat of raku glaze onto the outside of the pot with a glaze sprayer.

24. Paint white raku glaze on the inside of the vase with a medium-size paintbrush.

25. Put the vase in a small gas kiln outdoors and fire it to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit for about an hour.

26. Set a metal trash can and lid near the kiln and put about four cups of sawdust and a sheet of newspaper in the trash can.

27. Wearing heavy-duty leather gloves, welding goggles, a hat and arm and leg coverings to protect yourself from the heat, shut off the kiln, open it and remove the hot vase with tongs and quickly place it in the trash can. Immediately replace the lid.

28. Wait about 30 seconds, open the can, throw in a half-sheet of newspaper and quickly replace the lid.

29. Let cool for about 1 hour.

30. When cool, remove the vase and scrub with steel wool to clean off the ashes.

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