Beaverton Education Foundation: BEF Fires Up Raku Pottery at Aloha High, Project funded through BEF Building STEAM 4 All program

By BEF Staff21 BEF Fires Up Raku Pottery at Aloha High

Students at Aloha High School were able to take part in Raku pottery this year under the guidance of Whitney Daley.

Raku pottery is created with an ancient Japanese ceramic firing process that uses both fire and smoke to create unique patterns and designs. The firing process requires a special raku kiln that is fueled by propane and reaches temperatures of about 1800 F. The firing process includes heating the pottery to glowing hot, then moving it to a metal can full of combustible materials.

As the fire consumes the oxygen within the can, it also draws the oxygen out of the pottery and its glazes. This process is called post fire reduction. It is in this stage that creates the unique look of raku pottery. The resulting patterns and colors are unpredictable, as they are created through the natural process of oxygen removal. Students were able to see these changes in the artwork and the effects of artistic choices and certain chemicals being present in the glazes they chose.

This method of firing offered additional challenges and options for advanced art students and created science, chemistry and math learning opportunities for all students. According to Whitney Daley, Art Teacher, “Students enjoyed explaining the process to community members, AHS admin and staff who stopped by to inquire. It was a good discussion about the science behind the process, the glaze outcomes and planning for future artworks was fluid and ongoing.”

The actual outcomes of this project were even better than the expected outcomes. Several Raku projects were featured in AP portfolios that went to the college board for review, the Oregon Potters Association Showcase and additional scholarship opportunities such as the Herzog-Meier Scholarship.

Overall this was an excellent opportunity and afforded students additional opportunities to explore and benefit from their art interest.

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