This is part two of our initial try at creating Raku Pottery… (if you have not seen part 1 here is the link Weekend with Raku (Part 1) ) I think a better title for this post would be “Going up in fire” or “Cast down into the flames”. I don’t want to ruin the suspense… but for those who don’t like lots of words this was a spectacular fail. (You can now just look at the pictures, skip the words, and laugh)
We did all of that for nothing…
Before I share in depth details on this fail I would like to talk about failing in general. I have never been fearful of trying something because I know there is high likelihood of me failing. Often people brag about being “winners”… well I want to let everyone know that I am pretty awesome at failing. I am also fantastic at enjoying the entire downward spiraling journey on my way to fail. Isabelle asked me if it doesn’t frustrate me. I told her “No… that is what work does.” Speaking of work, years ago when I worked at Motorola, I had a boss that sent out an email stating that we need to “celebrate” our failures. Celebrating instead of minimizing or hiding failure is the best way to learn and progress.
I want to add… there are so many things much more important in life that we must not fail at… like being a husband and a father. I will gleefully fail at all of the less meaningful things.
With all of that in mind let us celebrate my Raku Fail!
FAIL STEP 1. Glazing
The first thing we did after letting our creations dry for a week was to paint on the glaze. The above picture shows mine and you will note that glazing can be rather unfulfilling because you don’t see the color until after it is fired. This does add a bit of anticipation for the final outcome… that is if it works.
You can see Ben and Sam working really hard to shake up the glaze. Hanna and Gwen joined us in the glazing but I only got a picture of Hanna and the boys… Sorry Gwen. (Isabelle, who by the way was the most disappointed, asked the boys to glaze hers)
FAIL STEP 2: Converting brick oven into a Kiln
Years back I made a brick oven out of some huge fire brick a neighbor had that came from a steel mill. This oven we used frequently the first year making “tarte flambee” (Flammkuche) a specialty from my wife’s region of France. (Hmm… someday I should share our recipe). This year it has sat idly until this weekend. The boys helped build a fire. I thought we would warm it up and a bit before using it for the pottery. (I think this was one of our first mistakes…)
The boys like most I imagine, love building fires (I said building not starting… there is a difference… ) You can see the fire… and the vines before they all were burned away. I have had this oven as high as 700º F. before but I knew that we would have to almost double that. I decided to make a trip to the local home improvement store and purchase some “fire power”.
Here is Ben excited by the cool thing I bought… He didn’t know what it was but knew that it would shoot fire and that sounded awesome to him. I being somewhat a boy as well and excited by the “thing” I bought… decided to try it out and see how hot it would make the oven. I also grabbed one of the left over fire bricks to use as a door..
It brought the oven up to over 1000º and was loud and awesome. We also noticed that after using the torch the propane tank had frost on the outside.
This caused my kids to do a quick google search to learn why the propane tank had frost on the outside. They informed me that as the propane turns from liquid to gass it cools down the outside container and if the flow is fast enough you will see the frost form.
Enough playing… I decided to let the oven cool a bit… about 500º. Hanna my oldest daughter has done this several times and warned us that if there are air pockets they would explode. We knew this was a probability so I added mine and Isabelle’s first. (thinking they were least likely to have air pockets)
I shut the door and then turned up the heat… I looked in after 10 minutes and it was all gone. I opened the door and notice that my piece was now reduced to only a couple of quarter sized shards and I couldn’t find any of Isabelle’s parts. I then realized it is probably due to the thermal shock… or air pockets. The most disappointing part was I expected to hear a large explosion… and heard nothing. I decided to leave the door open and set the pieces of pottery in the entrance for 15 minutes to warm them up before putting them all the way in.
I placed Sam’s skull in further since I was certain it would blow up. We watched it and we heard a disappointing small “POP”. It was still very cool since the pieces blew up and disappeared… neither of these two raku made it… but Sam thought it was cool that his blew up… (I did as well)
Gwen was very anxious… she didn’t want hers to be destroyed so I did my best by slowly introducing it to the heat… both Rabbit and Tiger. This seemed to work much better… until we noticed a small hole in Tigers head and finally his head blew up…. really fun to watch. I was finally able to convince Gwen to let me shut the door and turn up the heat. We did this and to all of our surprise Rabbit was still together. Hanna’s beetle thing was also still in once piece.
We noticed that the glaze started to glow… and I being a bit impatient torched her rabbit directly. We pulled these out and put them in a metal can with newspapers and lit that on fire… (sorry didn’t take pictures of that). The glaze turned a strange red color… we thought it would be blue… Gwen was still ok because she still had one intact.
Last Ben… I was worried he would be sad when all of his stuff blew up so I decided to not heat it too much just put it in the coals so it looked like it cooked.
Unfortunately it slowly blew up… small parts at a time… very fun to watch. Ben had left to play with a friend so I pulled out a small part that was left… (Cat with wings) and called it done.
Here is the result of all of our work. Hanna’s beetle while ugly was fine… but you will note that I accidently broke off the Rabbits ears.
Gwen and Hanna fixed Rabbit with epoxy…
Here is the final outcome of our work… You can see the “fixed” rabbit next to the headless tiger… I almost like the headless tiger more. Ben came home and I carefully delivered the news… He was really disappointed… disappointed in that he was not around to see it explode. We all had fun despite failing and maybe next time we can get it a bit better.
I completed the day of fun by taking advantage of the hot oven to make ribs… which in my mind is a fantastic way to celebrate our failure.
Just one last look at BEFORE and AFTER.