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Raku Ware And Staffordshire Pottery

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Raku Ware And Staffordshire Pottery Essay, Research Paper

Raku Ware and Staffordshire Pottery

Essay submitted by Donovan Glass

Raku Ware was originally from Japan in the town of Kyoto and was named after the

Raku family during the 16th Century. At this time, the Emperor Hideyoshi had conquered

Korea and the native potters immigrated to Japan bringing with them pottery

techniques and knowledge.

The pots were produced for the Zan Buddhist tea ceremony and the decorating and

firing of the pots were part of the tea ceremony. Bernard Leach introduced Raku into

the west after living in Japan and China setting up pottery in St. Ives, England in 1920.

It is still popular today, and made almost worldwide. Raku Ware is still produced today

by the 14th generation, of the same Japanese family.

Staffordshire was a large and important part of Britain for earthenware production. The

first known examples of Staffordshire slipware date back to early Seventeenth Century.

Even though lead-glazed earthenware seemed to be established before this time, the

market generally went beyond Staffordshire. Butter pots made in Staffordshire were

well known for their quality by dairy farmers in England and surrounding areas. Slipwares

are named for their decoration with liquid clays, usually poured or trailed onto the pot.

Although this was a highly developed technique in Staffordshire it was used in other

surrounding areas such as London and Wrotham.

Staffordshire slipware usually has three categories flatware which are plates, dishes

and bowls, jugs and lidded pots are classified as hollow ware, and miscellaneous ware

includes money boxes, cradles and candle sticks.

Just as tea was important in the development of Raku Ware in Japan, so the Elers

brothers who studied salt glazes in Europe and moved to Staffordshire in the 1690s,

produced small tea pots, tea canisters, teacups and jugs. They used finely prepared

red clay which was thrown on the wheel, and then lathed when leather hard. (Common

salt is thrown into the kiln during firing 1200oc to produce a salt glaze)

In Raku any clay that copes with the firing technique must be able to withstand heat

shock without warping, distorting or cracking. The clay needs to have particles in it to

allow water to escape quickly so calcinated China clay or clay with temper (grog, flint

or shell) added to it, is successful. This clay occurred naturally in Japan. Many

contemporary potters have favourite clay recipes for their clay bodies when making

Raku Ware.

Staffordshire slipware clays usually have trouble withstanding higher temperatures

without distorting and warping while stoneware can. It was discovered that when

calcined flint was added to the clay, it would allow the pot to withstand higher

temperatures and even whiten the overall appearance of the pot. This whitening effect

in the pots was adapted as a alternative to porcelain. There was not a suitable white

firing china clay as used in the East, found in England, except in Cornwall. The

porcelains in the Staffordshire area are known as ‘ soft pastebecause of their low

firing temperature and the clay body was rich in quartz and low in clay with glass frit

and lime or gypsum added to get rid of the unwanted iron-oxide colour. Wedgewood

developed his cream wares by adding china stone and china clay to the body he was

using resulting in a whitish blue strong body known as pearl ware. He also developed

coloured clays to imitate stones such as jasper, basalt and onyx.

In the early 18th the firing technique for Staffordshire Ware changed to a two staged

firing. The first was on the unglazed pot to produce biscuit ware, which was dipped in a

lead glaze and re-fired at a lower temperature. By the end of the 18th century the kilns

moved from wood and charcoal burning to coal burning. These kilns* were larger with

five or more mouths and a distinctive bottle shaped encasing chimney. These improved

firing techniques allowed more decorative styles and improved appearance with hand

painting and printing of border designs, figure painting and landscapes becoming


Raku Ware when fired is often spectacular and has uncertain outcomes. The pot is

covered in a glaze, placed in a red, burning hot kiln and fired until the glaze has

matured, the pot is then placed out of the kiln and is allowed to cool quickly. With that

dramatic cooling down period, the glaze crackles, and this obviously gives the pot a

broken and smashed appearance. And this can take sometimes less than one hour to

complete. Raku Ware firing is a dramatic and involves trauma for the pots.

Originally potters in Japan used raw lead as the main ingredient. However this can lead

to lead poisoning. Nowadays, a fritted lead is substituted which is more stable. Glaze

must stay on a pot during the firing process and melt from 800oc – 1100oc although

Black Raku is fired at 1200oc. Post firing reduction may be part of contemporary Raku

pottery. Fuming is where metal salts are sprayed onto the molten glaze of a red-hot

Raku pot straight from the kiln. Chemicals introduced directly into the kiln (non-electric)

during firing is called vapour fuming and is also possible with Raku pottery. However a

smoke finish using sawdust or other flammable product is popular.

Lead was also used in Staffordshire Ware as a glaze but salt glaze was introduced from

Europe and a scratched blue, salt glaze ware was also produced using a cobalt blue

stain. However the slightly rough surface of the salt glaze a braised silver cutlery so

this ware was replaced by cream coloured ware by the end of the 18th century.

Wedgewood made the cream coloured earthenware universally accepted.

Raku Ware has regained popularity in the last thirty years because it gives great

expression and the excitement of drawing red hot pots from the kiln and smoking in

sawdust and unpredictable results suit many potters. It was introduced by Bernard

Leach into England in the 1920s and revived by Paul Soldner in the United States in the

1960s. Some of the original potteries established in Staffordshire in the 1700s are still

producing pottery today, with many of their items sort after by collectors world-wide.

Where Staffordshire is famous for its mass production, Raku Ware is more individual

especially because its techniques often produce unexpected results.

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