Bit of an epic Raku session yesterday! Hard to beat the volcanic throb of a hot kiln under Idaho skies in spring.
As I've lightly alluded to in the past
, I'm working on a project based off Douglas Adams' 'Last Chance to See'
a series of musical instruments with endangered species motifs. The first iteration involves a replication of a Maori gourd instrument called a Hue Puruhau
. I shared some early designs
and images of wheel work
in a couple of earlier entries.
Here's the first version. This piece was fired a couple of weeks ago. As you can see, I modified the early bottle shape, shortening the neck, and altering the surface (with a blunt piece of wood) to make it look more 'gourd-like'.
I'm not 100% thrilled with this effort. I think that the design is out of proportion to the piece. Also- it's supposed to be a musical instrument, played like a bottle or flute, and I can't get a tone out that out-sweetens the moan of a prion-riddled cow. I can't claim to be an expert on flute making, but I know something about embouchure from my dabblings in Irish music, and this thing doesn't have it.
Here's design number two, hot out of the kiln as of 8:45 last night...
I like this one a lot more.
Apart from the tasty crackle pattern (good crackle makes Raku artists salivate) I think that the piece is more proportionally balanced. It also plays. A Hue Puruhau is supposed to yield a low, almost conch-like note- a sound that could sooth the angry seas.
I might have to test this one on the local Arboretum pond first, but at least it's functional.
Anyhow, I'm curious as to what people think- just visually- about the two pieces
(And... I defy any of you- at the very least if you're not Maori- to take a self-portrait blowing on a Hue Puruhau without looking like a complete ding-dong).
In addition to kakapo gourds, I also fired a couple drum bases and planters. Here are some images...
I've learned a couple important lessons about Raku over the past year.
For one- the clays sold as 'Raku clays' (all of which feature added grit 'for strength') are very frustrating to carve. My carving tool tends to grab as it moves over the clay, catching on the grog. You get jerky, irregular lines... and representational forms are particularly hard to transcribe.
This is all a roundabout way to say that the nymph on this planter looked a LOT better in my sketchbook.
I should not that I don't blithely put random naked gals on my stuff- there's a whole mythology-based story behind this design. Yup. Sure.
I mentioned in an earlier post that I've been riffing off a beautiful illustrated book called '365 fish
' (imaginative title, that). This fellow is known- in polite company- as a 'Bombay Duck'. Harpadon nehereus- # 139 on this list.
Glows in the dark, and is consumed with great relish on the streets of Maharashtra, India.
I culled a few ideas from the same book in designing these drums. Eventually (after I get back from Ecuador in June) I'll slap a drum head on these guys and post a few pictures.
On the right, we have the noble Zeus faber, also known as a 'John Dory'. These are spurned by fishermen because of the massive head and gratuitous spines, but Catholics honor them as 'Saint Peter's Fish'. There's a golden, coin-like marking on the flank of the fish... apparently, Peter, pulled this coin from the fish's mouth.
One the left, we have the equally amazing Regalecus glense- literally translates out as 'King of Herrings'. Number 178. Specimens have been captured that exceeded 11 meters in length (they're registered with Guinness as the 'world's longest fish').
It's hypothesized that legends of sea serpents may have originated with sightings of R. glense. While I defy such unimaginative thinking (I want my Kracken, dang it) I have to admit that that's a pretty snaky-looking fish...
Finally, one of the lovely things about Raku is the social aspect. There's something very joyful about sharing a bout of pyromaniac bliss with a group of friends. I always feel like I've been cast back to the dawn of Stonehenge.
Celeste (pictured at left) was a student in my fall Conservation Biology class, and a fine sculptor. She's got a particular affinity for wild ungulates- note the pronghorn in the photo, pre-fire.
Anyhow, Celeste came over with her friend Carrie, and ran three animal busts through my kiln.
I was a bit worried- these were fairly delicate little creations, and sculpture often lacks the resistance to thermal shock that you can get with wheel-thrown pottery. Also, Celeste wasn't familiar with my glazes, and had to slap some stuff on at the eleventh hour.
This was the first piece we fired. Celeste says that it was a gemsbok. I have to believe her, since she's WAY more representational in her work than I am. (Plus, she's a full-fledged biology graduate as of this week).The piece was formed from a high-iron red clay. I've never used that type of clay in Raku, and had NO idea as to which of my glazes would work. In the end, she went with a turquoise crackle that I bogarted from Jeff Guin and his groovy 'Clean Mud' blog.I've got to say- the glaze came out looking stunning
- both the texture and appearance of a mid-life bronze patina. I may have to Raku fire high-iron clay more often.
The pronghorn also turned out- not only interesting- but also beautiful.
Anyhow, I'm taking eight students to Ecuador on Monday- starting in on several months of research in the High Andes, so I'm about to go through force wheel withdrawal. Oh well. If there's anything on the same level of fun as Raku, it's chasing mountain tapirs in the Páramo.