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October Art Display: The Art of Raku

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October Art Display: The Art of Raku

on display

The Art of Raku: Pottery by Tina Hanna Burk

This October the Livingston Public Library’s display case features the unique art of Raku pottery by artist Tina Burk.  

october art display 1

ARTIST’S STATEMENT

Biographical Information

I am a local artist, raised in Millburn, now living in West Orange. I began working with clay in college and found it a wonderful medium through which I could express my creativity. When I became a mother, I decided that raising my children would always come before playing with clay.  My three daughters are grown, and I again have time to create with clay. 

When I returned to the studio, I made many bowls. They were useful, people wanted them, they were easy. But I wanted to grow as an artist, and try new ideas. I began to experiment with new forms and decorative techniques. As I allowed myself to experiment, my creativity blossomed. I grew more confident with my artistic vision. My most recent venture is a technique called nerikomi, the inlay of colored porcelains to create designs.

october art display 2

Over time, I have come to realize that creating pieces for family, friends, and customers has a spiritual side.  As I hold in my hand some of the ancient pottery shards I have acquired, I am in awe that the hand of some potter hundreds and even thousands of years ago created something that still exists. Maybe some of my pieces will be favorites to hand down to another generation, to take part in family meals and celebrations, while the broken pieces might be found by some future archeologist to hold and cherish. 

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The Process of Raku Firing

Raku is an ancient technique of firing clay, the roots of which go back to 16th century Japan.  Unlike other glaze firings where the kiln is slowly brought up to temperature and then allowed to slowly cool, raku is fired very quickly—from room temperature to 1750 and back to room temperature in about an hour.  When the kiln has reached the correct temperature, it is opened, the pot is removed using long tongs, then placed in a pit lined with sawdust. The sawdust immediately bursts into flames and the pot is then quickly covered with a metal container lined with straw. This is when the magic begins. 

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october art display 4

The glazes for raku ware have a very high copper content. Consider a copper roof or penny. Before they are exposed to the environment, the copper roof or penny is very bright and shiny. But as either is exposed to oxygen, it grows duller, or even develops green and blue colorings. This happens in just a few minutes during the raku firing. In a reduction firing (called so because the oxygen in the environment is reduced), the combustibles (straw, newspaper, sawdust) use up the oxygen in the container, producing beautiful metallic colors.  The unglazed areas of the pot absorb carbon from the burning organic matter and become black.  If the metal container is lifted at the correct moment, cooler air containing an infusion of oxygen is introduced to the environment. The clay and the glaze are meant to cool and shrink at different rates. The glaze forms cracks which show up beautifully as they absorb the carbon from the burning organic matter and turn black. 

Raku firings produce decorative ware.  They are neither food safe nor waterproof.

These elegant and exquisite pieces of pottery can be viewed till the end of October during Library hours.

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