About our Pottery

A brief history of Raku pottery

The term Raku means "enjoyment" or "ease". This traditional Japanese style of pottery derives its name from Jurakudai, the name of a palace in Kyoto built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a leading warrior statesman of the time. Raku pottery began in Japan during the 16th century with tea bowls made by an artisan and tile maker named Chojiro at the request of Japanese tea master, Sen Rikyu who was involved with the construction of the palace. The name and ceramic style have been passed down through the family since then. In the early twentieth century, European and North American potters began investigating and experimenting with the raku style of pottery. As a result, it continues to develop and evolve in unique, exciting ways around the globe.

Our work

The process of making raku style pottery begins with a ball of wet clay formed into a shape and dried. The resulting piece is fired to bisque (heated in an electric kiln to 950C). When cooled, the piece is decorated with glaze and placed in a propane heated outdoor kiln. We use one made out of recycled oil drums and fire brick. The piece is heated up once again to melt the glaze, usually to about 1000C. When it is red-hot, it is moved from the kiln into a bucket lined with sawdust and leaves and covered to smother the flames and let the smoke and lack of air create the unusual finish. The process is called post fire reduction. After a short while, the piece is plunged into water, halting the reduction and holding whatever patterns have developed in the smoke and fire. When the piece is cool enough to handle, it is cleaned in warm soapy water, revealing beautiful and often surprising copper, aqua and white crackled surfaces. All items, from a mussel shell to a vase, are individually shaped and fired, making each one of a kind.

This kind of firing is hot, intense and exciting. It can also involve more people; we usually enlist friends and others who happen by to help. There is always food and a scattered bit of wine, once the firing is done.

Since each piece is individually crafted, there may be slight variations in shape and size. This type of pottery is decorative not intended for use with food or liquids. Mike Gillan and Erin McArthur currently reside on the North Atlantic coast in St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador. The wild natural beauty, rugged coastline and the rich cultural life continue to be a source of inspiration for their work.

Pottery and giftware
handmade in Newfoundland

Northeastern Folk Art

Mike Gillan and Erin McArthur
St. John's, NL, Canada A1C 3W7

Tel: 709-754-4665

Email: info@northeasternfolkart.com