The esthetic core of the Raku ceramics is the wabi-sabi: a beauty ideal present in imperfect objects, used over time. Once rich samurai and noblemen were the first to appreciate these objects of rustic feeling, believing they possessed the essence of beauty and wisdom. Today they are valued all over the world as they are considered true artwork and they can be admired in museums and private collections.
Raku technique was born in Japan, from a zen spirit and for that the reason it can exalt the harmony of smaller things and the beauty of simplicity. Raku finds its origins in the tea ceremony: a ritual, focused on simple objects, such as the tea bowl, shared by guests. The inner meaning of Raku is contact with matter, with the elements earth, water, air and fire; unique objects, unrepeatable, as created by nature.
Raku technique find its origin in the Momoyama era (16th century b.C) by a Korean craftsman, a tile maker, named Chojiro. He worked on this technique to produce tea bowls in an easier manner. The word “Raku” means “comfortable, relaxed, enjoyable, joy of life” and it was used from the 16th Century on in the Kyoto suburbs, where clay was extracted. After the publication of a manual in the 18th century, the Raku technique spread throughout the world from Japan. Today, Raku ceramics are highly seeked and collected. Some of them are true masterpieces and they can be admired in museums and private collections.
In this special technique, the ceramic piece goes through a strong thermal shock: that’s why you need a strong resistant clay, suited to withstand higher temperatures. The material mixture contains sand and cooked clay grains, called chamotte, that decrease contractions, thus avoiding fractures. The white resistant clay piece is cooked a first time at around 950-1000 degrees Celsius; then it is decorated using oxides and glazes (for example, to obtain a blue colour, you need cobalt oxide).
The Raku cooking process -second time cooked- takes place in a special kiln in light ceramic fibers. where temperatures can reach 950-1000 degrees Celsius. When the kiln turns light orange, nearly yellow, and the pieces inside are glossy, they are removed. While it’s still glowing from the heat, it is put directly into water or allowed to cool in the open air. That’s the true Raku technique.