Friday, 29 June 2012

RAKU Workshop Wednesday 27/06

After many weeks of work participants in Christie's classes were well prepared for a Raku workshop with Noel Monmarson. For those that don't know him, Noel is an artist who works primarily with clay. You can see examples of his work on his website:

6 participants started the day at Noel's studio in Biot. It was an extremely hot day and the cicadas were chirping away. The inexperienced participants didn't bring hats - so the first exercise was making paper hats.

Recognize her ? and check out the hat !
Next exercise was glazing the pieces. All parts that were to be smoked black had to be protected. After that glaze was added to the piece - either by dipping, by painting or by pouring. It looked so easy when Noel did his demo - but everyone soon found out that there was more to it.

A demonstration by Noel
Next step was to stack the gas-fired kiln. Noel uses one he has made himself. When working with glowing hot material it is necessary to wear protective clothing. Check out what Noel was wearing when the temperature outside was around 30 (and a lot more next to the kiln) gloves, jacket etc. This is definitely an activity better suited to the winter months.
Noel in summer (30 degrees C) with all his protective clothing
After spending time in the kiln the pieces were taken out while it was still glowing hot. They were placed in metal containers filled with sawdust. As soon as the hot piece met the dry sawdust with enough air - the sawdust took fire and the lid was put on. The container acts as a reduction tube. When the lid is put on, the container induces a reaction between clay and oxygen. The air inside the box is starved of oxygen and begins to pull it out of the glaze and the clay. The result can be beautiful. Where there is no glaze, the clay goes black. Where there is glaze - it can take on the most wonderful colours. Once ready (and here experience counts) the pieces are taken out. For a quick cooling, pieces are dipped in water. This stops the chemical reaction and fixes the colours. 

The result were some beautifully fired pieces. 
The works of Theresa, Tracy, Titia & Christie

 But there were also those that exploded. You never know what's going to happen - although it's a little easier to predict when you are as experienced as Noel is.

Participants were also lucky to be shown Noel's studio and could follow a demo of how to work a potters wheel.

Noel giving a quick demo

Participants looking and learning
Noel has decorated part of his cellar as a small gallery, where he has his pieces on display. Take a look for yourself - the work of a true master:

Rhino in Raku by Noel Monmarson

If you ever need a very special present for someone - I highly recommend contacting Noel and picking out a piece from his showroom.

Everything was ready to be taken home at around 18:30 - so it was one very long - and interesting - day.

Thanks to Noel and Catherine for the use of their location and to Noel and Christie for arranging the workshop !!!

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