(some comments about raku and non-raku fired sculpture)
Sculpture is a collaboration of hand, eye, glaze, fire and time. Risks exist at every turn: the malleability of the clay, the texture, the moisture and rate of drying, the hollowing of the form and its piercing to guard against explosion in the kiln.
The outcome depends not only on the skill of the artist and the inspiration of the model, but on the skill of the kiln master, where the rate of heating, length of firing, and the rate of cooling down are critical to the safe transition to hardness. First there is the bisque firing and, after glazing, there is one or more low- or a single high-firing.
In the case of raku, there is also the risk of the raku fire, where the bisqued sculpture, glazed, is brought to a heat of 1800 degrees and then, after about an hour, removed -- red hot -- with tongs, placed on torn newspaper (which bursts into flame), covered with a bucket for 20 minutes and then shocked again by a stream of cool water to bring out the qualities of the glaze. Results are exquisitely unpredictable.
Working from the model requires patience and the willingness to destroy and start again. Self portraiture needs a mirror and, in the case of a life-sized head, a pair of calipers. Above all, it requires an acceptance of what is found there.
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