Friday, October 24, 2014

Inside the Studio with Mary Harding

Welcome to Inside the Studio!

Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive we offer a free prize each week to bribe you to use that keyboard. The following week we choose a random winner.

Congratulations Kristina
You have won  one rectangle-shaped 'Call Me Rosebud' pendant (retail value: $25) from Erin Prais-Hintz of Tesori Trovati
Please send Erin an email with your information.

beads placed into a can for raku reduction 
Since we are still having some decent weather here in Northern New York, and I had gotten out my raku equipment to make Zombie jewelry with my grandchildren when they visited over Columbus Day weekend, I thought I would share with you some pictures of how I used my small kiln to raku some beads I made this week.  
The raku process requires the placement of red hot ware into a container ( for beads, like the one above) that has some combustibles that will catch on fire and once the lid is in place, will  deprive the clay of oxygen and turn  the unglazed areas black. The glazes will often develop an iridescent sheen.
Examples of selective glazing of my pieces for the raku firing

This toggle clasp  has an unglazed area around the orange which will be blackened by the reduction firing

This daisy only has color and clear glaze on the  petals

these birds have glazed areas and unglazed areas 

this maple leaf was left unglazed but glazed all around the leaf

Here is how they looked after the firing

Raku Fired Toggle Clasp

Raku Fired Daisy

Raku Fired Birds

Raku Fired Maple Leaf Pendant

I use a small metal rack to string my beads on for the firing so that I can get them out of the kiln easily when they are red hot. 

Beads on metal rack before the firing

I heat the kiln up to about 1800 degrees F. and then open the door and take out the red hot beads and place them in a Christmas popcorn container with combustibles. 

beads heated up to 1800 degrees F

popcorn container with beads and combustibles on fire

I usually throw in some wood shavings and sawdust right before I put on the lid.  Then  I wait about 10-15 minutes and  take them out and plunge the rack with the beads in a bucket of cold water.  That step seems to bring out the sheen on the glazes. 

raku fired beads drying in the dehydrator
After the beads have been in the cold water and cooled off, I scrub them with a brush and than put them in my dehydrator to dry.

Then they are ready to be used in jewelry.  Many of these beads are in my Etsy shop .  I hope you will stop by.

Raku bead firing is a very unpredictable process.  The colors of the glaze and the depth of blackness is not easy to control and has to do with many factors. Many experienced raku artists say that gray and overcast days with high humidity make the colors come out the best.  I love the excitement of the raku  process and the surprising results.  But I also know that sometimes I will be disappointed in the outcome.

Now for my question to you:  Do you like to be surprised by the results of what you do or would prefer a predictable outcome? or are you somewhere in between?   Please tell and leave a comment below.
I will give away a pair of raku beads from these firings from a randomly chosen comment left below.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

beads shortly after they were removed from the cold water
You can see the iridescence on the bead rack as well as the beads.


Unknown said...

Thank you for this fascinating post. I love raku but only had a very vague idea of how it worked. It's so interesting! Your pieces here have turned out great! I like the idea of surprise. Even though that includes disappointment sometimes, surprises also yield some of the best successes. And keeps life interesting.

Chelester said...

I love putting dichroic glass pendants into my kiln, not knowing what the final result will be. Sometimes I am disappointed, but sometimes not!

Claire Lockwood said...

I'm definitely somewhere in-between on the predictability front! Raku looks so exciting - shame I'm not going to be able to it in my shed. I wish I could win some of these!

Karin G said...

Your raku beads are amazing, thank you for sharing your creation process. As for surprise, I never plan my jewelry, I start at one point, a bead, a theme or something else and never know how it will finish or even what it will be. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't, but I can always take it apart and do something else.

Becky Pancake said...

Hi Mary, thanx for sharing your process. I found it very interesting. Your raku is beautiful. I am somewhere in the middle on surprises. I don't usually plan my designs out. I just start and let the designs flow to a surprise end. I have not tried firing my kiln yet so I cannot say how I would do with a disappointing outcome.

Ema Kilroy said...

Fascinating post Mary! I love it. You're making me want to work in clay. Your pieces are beautiful!!!

Marybeth said...

I really liked this post, loved you re-purposing of the popcorn container. I like surprises in my work when they improve the piece. When I have a very clear vision of the way I want the finished piece to look, an unexpected development can be a real bummer. But I tend to let my creations grow organically so I am rarely attached to a perfectly planned and executed result.

Shai Williams said...

What an interesting process. I always wondered just how it worked. Thank you so much for sharing.

Unpredictability... I really prefer to be surprised but since I am the one putting my jewelry together, it rarely happens. Otherwise, I love all the little things that life throws at us to keep us on our toes.

Mokki said...

Your beads and pendants look great, I love the flower. I prefer unpredictability when I work, I like to give some control to the medium I'm working with.

baymoondesign said...

It is fascinating to see the process you use. I love your high tech Christmas popcorn tin serving such an important part of it.

I like things to turn out in a predictable manner. If they don't I may blame myself for not doing it "right". Probably not a good thing!

Kristen said...

This is so interesting! I had no idea it was such a primitive process involving so much fire. I love you your results especially the orange daisy! I do enameling and I love the magical surprise of the process. I don't spend enough time just experimenting and discovering.

Unknown said...

This is so interesting. I had no idea! What a difference from the beginning to the end. I am definitely into predictable outcomes. With limited time to make pretty things, I want to know that my time is well spent.

Deborah said...

Wonderful results!

In spite of the "surprise" element at the end, these works all show your thoughtful attention to meticulous detail which is what opens up the possibility of such successful "surprises" as these.

I love raku and a lot of it is much more "general" than these pieces. Especially love that flower!!

My own work is quite "surprising," as well - I work in many media and am always trying to expand my knowledge and skill, which means many new techniques and trials (planned and unplanned).

Torching/forging metal to the limits and enameling are two of my favorites - they are both full of unexpected results AND thrilling delights!

Anonymous said...

I stick to polymer clay because it's more "what you see is what you get". I find ceramics terrifying - especially not being able to see the glaze colours :)

bairozan said...

I don't make beads of my own but sometimes the end piece of jewelry may be really surprising vs. expectations. It usually is a good surprise as it has evolved in the making process but, occasionally, a piece may turn out not looking as good as in your mind or an inspirational picture. Anyway, in general, I like surprises!