What A Raku Firing Taught Me

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In 2017, I applied for a grant with our local educational enrichment foundation, TEEF, to get a Bracker Raku Kiln and all the needed pieces that go with it. I was one of the lucky few whose grants were funded or partially funded. It was an amazing feeling. I have been waiting since May 2018 to introduce the fun of Raku to my upper ceramics students.

I have a small group this year, which was great for our inaugural firing. The students all made at least one piece out of the special Raku clay. We had a local Potter come and talk to us about Raku firing. Several of the students had witnessed Raku firings at the Texas Clay Festival. We picked a date, set up a rain date, and informed all the people who needed to be there. The students watched video several times and made diagrams. We were ready. It was the perfect time before we were taking g a week off for Thanksgiving.

One thing we did not expect in Texas at this time of year was that it was going to be 32° this morning. Thanks Obama. We decided to press on. We worked in the cold, checking, listening, comparing. It was cold, and windy. But we pushed on. We were able to pull one firing off. It didn’t go perfectly, and we have much to discuss tomorrow in class when we do our group reflection on the process. The second firing didn’t get up to temp. Did I mention the wind? I finally called it during 5th period and we shut it down. The kids understood.

Looking back on today, we learned so much as a group…about the bracket kiln, about how to fire (I haven’t run a Raku firing in over 12 years), about combustibles, and about all the technical things that go with Raku.

But, the most important thing that I learned today came from my students. I was disappointed. I wanted their first Raku to be amazing. And it wasn’t, at least in my eyes. But for them it was a great day. They taught me it was all a learning experience. They weren’t bummed by the wind and the fact that we messed up timing. Or that we called the second firing. They knew we could do another firing; we could finish firing our pieces tomorrow. We have more clay. There’s a whole other semester. They had so much fun today. They came together as a group. I forgot what all this was about. I forgot what I have been preaching in my tab studio for years–that it’s okay to fail and it’s okay to make mistakes and that’s how we learn. And they reminded me of that. And I am thankful for that, and for them.

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