I begin by forming or throwing the basic shape on my potter's wheel. This technique is used in the making of a Shadow Lamp. After the clay firms up enough so that it doesn't "bruise", I begin to "draw" the design on the piece using a small, fine wire loop similar to a paper clip in shape. Then I use an inch and one half long, thin, double edge bladed knife to carefully pierce the clay, cutting out the design. After the piece dries, the entire surface both inside and out must be sanded to remove the clay burrs from the cutting action of the knife. The piece is then fired to cone 05. After the kiln cools, the dust from sanding the burrs must be removed. We use an air compressor to blow all of the dust off the piece. The bottom of the pot is waxed, and the two edges where the shadow lamp top and bottom meet are waxed. After the wax dries, the pot is dipped in a glaze, the glaze is examined for flaws and drips, the wax is wiped and the pot loaded into the kiln for the stoneware firing. The final firing takes 14 - 22 hours and goes to 2340 degrees or cone 9 - 10. To finish the piece, the bottom is ground with an abrasive wheel. Also, see Making a Lantern.
TECHNIQUES INVOLVED IN MAKING AND FIRING THE HORSEHAIRRAKU
I form these pieces on the wheel from a very smooth clay. I am drawn to very simple quiet forms. As these pieces begin to dry, I use a smooth metal rod to carefully press the clay and smooth it out. When the piece is bone dry and begin to polish it in small sections with the metal rod, applying oil in the area where I will rub. As I rub the piece, it develops a mirror like surface which is hard an smooth. It is then wrapped in a towel to protect it from nicks and scratches and left to dry. I fire it to cone 06, glaze the inside and sometimes portions of the exterior. Then it goes into the raku kiln to be rapidly heated to 1800 degrees and at that temperature, carefully removed from the kiln. I place it on some grasses, leaves or straw to smoke the base of the pot and then I wait for the piece to cool enough to accept the smoke from the hair which I hold an inch from the hot pot. As soon as it begins to accept the smoke lines, I quickly hold the hair where I want the design. This amount of time is roughly a minute, is intensely hot must be done without protective gloves. I dry scrub the excess carbon off the piece, remove the carbon dust and apply 3 coats of paste wax to protect the surface from being marred by oils when people handle it. The result is a soft glowing organic patina which looks more like wood or marble than clay. See the Horsehair Firing Demonstration page.