Raku Firing

Raku firing is one of the most exciting processes in ceramics. After you place your pottery into a raku kiln, the anticipation builds as you wait for that final moment when the intense heat begins to melt the raku glazes. Something that I hate is waiting and the great thing about raku firing is that you pop it in the kiln and just a few hours later you have the final piece in your hands; something that you can’t get with normal firing.

Preparation is key for safe firing with raku, you should be appropriately dressed and covered, wearing health and safety equipment.

All types of clay can be used, including porcelain, but experimenting will be necessary. Gorged clays are probably the best bodies to use. Work must be bisque fired and glazed with raku glaze or slips prior to the raku firing. For the first firing warm the kiln for ten minutes by igniting  the burner on a gentle flame for the first five to ten minutes. The burner connection should be fitted with a pressure gauge, which reads the amount of gas flowing into the kiln. The heat rise should be gradual and can be turned up in two stages during the firing, but how much will depend on the size of the kiln. The first firing, before the kiln has warmed up, will take longer than the next ones. Once you see the glaze surface go shiny, turn the gas down for a few minutes to allow the kiln to soak so that there is a even melt. Turn off the gas supply and lift off the lid, ideally placed to one side on the kiln shelves. While the inside of the kiln is red hot, lift out the work using long handled metal tongs and place it in the dustbin, which should have a layer of sawdust in it. Once the dustbin is full f work, throw in large handfuls of sawdust and replace the lid, making sure it’s a tight fit.12834892_1155222207824271_516923901_n

Once you have placed the lid on the dustbin, do not take it back off to check, the flame will burst back into combustion with the oxygen and great a large, high flare (yes, almost lost my eyebrows). Wait until the sawdust has had a chance to burn down and then gently take off the lid. By placing  work in a pit, you will have a greater control over the reduction and coverage of the developing black. The work that is controlled in this way will usually have a much lighter and subtle  tones of greys and blacks. All workweek still be very hot, so use small metal tongs to take it out of the pit. Work can be cooled down on water and cleaned off to unveil the interesting surfaces and marks.

The slip resist technique can offer great mark-making potential, which produces finely controls surface detail. To produce this effect, you coat your piece with a layer of resist slip; different thickness of slip will produce a varied tonal surface. Then add a layer of raku glaze which will chip off but will protect the slip. While the glaze is still damp you can draw very precise lines. Then just fire it away and be amazed with the wonders of raku firing.

I mixed a raku glaze from Christine Constant & Steve Ogden book, The Potter’s Palette during my glaze induction and finally had an opportunity to fire it. I was expecting a crackled aqua colour which you can notice on the tip of the spout. Really interested how the colouration turned on the tea pot, and just comes to prove how unpredictable raku can be. Just a shame I can’t use the tea pot. Just a nice way to end this busy and productive term full of new techniques and experiences.


Sex Sells

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Oxford English Dictionary: Degrade to the status of a mere object Cambridge Dictionary Online: Treating people like tools or toys, as if they have no feelings opinions or rights of their own.

Normally when we think of objectification we tend to think about women. However, this affect all types of identities. Objectification is the seeing as or treating of an identity as an object or commodity. Further, sexual objectification or treating of an identity as an object or tool for sexual gratification.

  • Instrumentality – the treatment of a person as a tool for the objectifier’s purposes
  • Denial of autonomy – the treatment of a person as lacking in autonomy and self-determination
  • Inertness – the treatment of a person as lacking in agency, and perhaps also in activity
  • Fungibility – the treatment of a person as interchangeable with other objects
  • Violability – the treatment of a person as lacking in boundary-integrity;
  • Ownership – the treatment of a person as something that is owned by another (can be bought or sold);
  • Denial of subjectivity – the treatment of a person as something whose experiences and feelings (if any) need not be taken into account.

Nussbaum, Martha, 1995, “Objectification”,Philosophy and Public Affairs

  • Reduction to body – the treatment of a person as identified with their body, or body parts;
  • Reduction to appearance – the treatment of a person primarily in terms of how they look, or how they appear to the senses;
  • Silencing – the treatment of a person as if they are silent, lacking the capacity to speak.

Rae Langton, 2009, Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Ingres’s Violin, Man Ray, 1924

According to Immanuel Kant, objectification involves the lowering of a person to the status of an object, thus removing that persons humanity, he believes that humanity is special and represents our inner worth not a relative worth. He further argues that, ” if I yield myself completely to another and obtain the person of the other in return, I win myself back; I have given myself up as the property of another, but in turn I take that other as my property, and so win myself back again in winning the person whose property I have become. In this way, the two persons become a unity of will”(Kant, 1963).

  • Monogamy is the only equitable way to maintain dignity and humanity between sexual partners
  • Without this commitment sexual activity may suffer from imbalance and lead to a lack of regard for another persons humanity
  • Legal as well as physical reciprocity, or lovers becoming each others property is the only way to avoid the objectification of one or other partner
Tom Ford for Men, Terry Richardson, 2007

Objectification occurs vastly through social means,it happens when an identity is made less than human, turned into a thing or commodity, bought and sold. When objectification occurs, a person is de-personalised, so that no individuality or integrity is available socially.

Gender Inequality

According to Ronald Dworkin we live in a patriarchial society where gender roles are culturally defined. Separated from the biology of sex, gender is socially constructed.  As a feminist Dworkin argues that in a patriarchial society the man as objectifyer has the power and the woman as the objectified has been de-humanised or turned into an object to be consumed, and is powerless.


Catharine McKinnon, 1987 has defined pornography as “the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women though pictures or words that also includes women de-humanised as sexual objects, things, or commodities; enjoying pain or humiliation or rape; being tied up, cut up, mutilated, bruised, or physically hurt;in postures of sexual submission or servility or display; reduced to body par ts, penetrated by objects or animals,or presented in scenarios of degradation, injury,torture;shown as filthy or inferior;bleeding, bruised, or hurt in a context that makes these conditions sexual”.

“The message I would like to give is that it doesn’t matter who the girl is,” he said.“It doesn’t depend on which class she belonged in—it can happen to anyone… We stay in a society where rich people roam in cars, and poor people who roam in public transport are in danger,” he continued.“It was my intent to mix these two things which are pretty apart from each other and make aesthetically strong images about it.”

-Raj Shetye on the work – “The Wrong Turn”

Women as Objects

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YSL Opium perfume ad featuring Sophie Dahl
  • Conforming to Body Ideals
  • Gestures, Posture and Movement
  • Female body as ornamented surface

“Our culture demands the ‘infantilisation’ of women’s bodies and faces” Sandra Lee Bartky, 1990

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Men as Objects

“Why should the cosmetics, diet, exercise, and surgery industries restrict themselves to female markets, if they can convince men that their looks need constant improvement too?”

Susan Bordo, 1999

“The increasing pressure on men to conform to unattainable standards of beauty is far from a sign of progress: it is, instead, a sign that the problem has grown”

Jennifer Saul, 2003

Italian Vogue, Steven Meisel,2005

Conclusively, both female and male have been objectified throughout the last century, female, arguably being more objectified perhaps but that is not really the point. There are different ways both genders are objectified and other identities are objectified in other different ways and this has a massive influence by how our bodies are idealised through the media and by ways of consumerism and sex.

Hey Clay Day

On the 4th December the National Centre for Ceramics Studies, Wales engaged with the Crafts Council Hey Clay Day, a national celebration of the magnificence of clay and the chance to unleash our inner potter. Over 70 venues hosted free events where thousands of people rolled up their sleeves and got creative with clay and we were one of them.

The Ceramics department carefully chose the nature of our event to be one that bought people together and demonstrated how working with the earth can reassert our connection to it and with each other.  

Throughout the day we had a range of activities were people were invited to participate. The amazing and talented (and CSAD Ceramics graduate) Iogen Higgins who stole the day with with her sculptural cob oven and lecture explaining the versatility and significance of the techniques/approach across the globe.

Amazing Grand Designs Episode:

Also other activities include Jen Hawthorn’s large scale sculpture teaching us her techniques of coiling which she learned in Sweden.

Jessica Dent and Mikky Saunby ran a workshop teaching the rudiments of building your own cob oven, with methods researched and tested over the summer by Ellie Cooper, which you can see on the photos, the range and the beauty of each oven which could potentially be scaled up for cooking pizza.

Had to include these haha

Had an amazing day, truly inspiring and proactive experience that brought people together  to celebrate the mucky stuff we are essentially made out off and can’t live without.