Since I started lampworking 12 years ago I haven’t taken any other classes other than the ones that introduced me to making beads, so when I had the opportunity to attend the Flame Off in the UK this year I thought it was about time to take a class in something new. Whilst the Flame Off is primarily a glass based event with demonstrations throughout the day from international and UK glass artists I took the opportunity to try something I have never done before.
I booked in for a ceramics Raku class with the lovely Caroline Dewson of Blueberribeads you can see more of Carolines work here https://blueberribeads.co.uk/shop/
Caroline had pre made some of her beads for us and they had been fired ready to glaze, we started with some instructions about using resist, this works a lot like those wax crayon paintings you do as a child, the glaze doesnt stick to the waxed areas, the wax burns off during firing and the smoke from the raku process turns the bare bits black. We painted our beads with patterns and designs, glazed them and popped them on the rack ready for firing.
Once the glazes had dried we took them to be fired, this had to be done outside because of the gas fired kiln and smoke. Caroline was so generous with her knowledge, sharing how she built her raku kiln, where she purchased parts, firing temperatures, she even shared some of her signature designs with us and how to create them.
Caroline created her raku kiln from a garden waste burner, this was lined with ceramic fibre blanket and heated with a garden weed burner. The beads were placed in the kiln and then heated to roughly 950 degrees, Caroline explained that at this stage its experience that tells you when the beads are ready to be lifted from the kiln and placed into a paint can lined with combustable materials, this is what brings out the lustres in the glaze and blackens the uncovered clay. I have to admit as someone that loves to play with fire this was my favourite part, we chose to line our tin with sawdust, once the beads are placed in the tin and the combustibles are on fire the lid is placed on to create an oxidising atmosphere. After around ten minutes the beads are lifted out, still hot, and placed in a bucket of water, its so exciting to see the beads at this stage, a quick clean with a scrubby cloth and your prize is revealed.
I love this finish! beautiful highlights and shine!
The one thing I made that stole the show for me was when I had time to experiment and decided to paint one of my dolls onto a statement pendant, I love this bead and was so delighted to see how it came out.
I got so much from this class, it was out of my comfort zone and something I had never done before, Caroline is such a generous gentle teacher, she is patient and informative and happy to share I cannot recommend her class highly enough. One of the biggest surprises for me coming away from this class was how invigorated I felt going back to my torch when I came home, stepping away from glass for a bit and trying something new was just the breath of fresh air I didn’t know I needed! 🙂