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Raku as practiced in the West is a low-fire method in which we quickly heat the ware, remove the ware from the kiln when the glaze has melted, and perform some type of post-firing process to the piece. This post-firing phase is usually an immersion in an organic combustible material to affect the final outcome of the glaze and the raw clay.

Deciding when the glaze has properly melted takes practice and is best done by observation, though many potters use a pyrometer to aid in making that decision. Raku is exciting, often unpredictable to the novice, and fun to do.

Glazes specifically designed for raku fall into two categories, homemade and commercially prepared. If you mix your own glazes, you can find recipes and information on the Internet, through friends, or in books. The advantage of using commercial glazes is that you are given instruction on how to use the glaze, you have a sample of the fired glaze to help guide your results, and the formulation (although not the results!) will be consistent.

Glazes used in the Raku process need not be "Raku" glazes at all. At its core, Raku is a low-temperature firing method. Any glaze that is formulated to flow at the lower temperatures of Raku firings can be used. Most Raku is done in the Cone 010-06 range, 1200 degrees to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

With greater understanding of the Raku process, even mid-range and high-fire glazes can be used in the lower temperature ranges of Raku. Try using your regular stoneware glazes or engobs. Over the glaze, apply a clear or white raku or other low temperature transparent glaze. The low-temperature glaze may cause the high-fire glaze to melt, giving you a new palette of colors to work with.

Remember to take notes so you will have the results of your experiments and you can replicate the exceptional masterpieces. Or not!!!

In addition to glazes, slips, engobes, underglazes, over glazes, china paints, underglaze pencils, oxides and stains are all viable in the raku process.

Keep in mind that no matter what type of glaze or decorative material you use, Raku is inherently not usable in everyday for use as domestic ware. Be safe, and think of your Raku ware as decorative and not functional.