Contemporary American Raku
We are a husband and wife team. In the studio, we are also a collaborative team. Ideas are shared. Each of us brings different skills into the process of creating our work. Carrin started out as a fiber artist... a tapestry weaver. She came into the pottery studio, with her sense for color and surface arrangement, almost 20 years ago. I have spent my whole career as a studio potter, first making functonal stoneware and porcelain in the Leach-Hamada tradition, and now working exclusively in raku.
Our pottery is, before all else, a statement of form. We look first for the silhouette of the piece; the lift from the surface, the graceful extension from the foot to the belly into the curve of the body, the strength of the shoulder, the grace of the neck, and finally the finish of the lip. All the parts are connected, and all the parts should be cohesive.
Surface decoration comes after that. We can either tell a story, or let the eye silently link the piece to its history. Form itself is sometimes enough to present a narrative to the viewer. Familiarity can often be the catalyst of a conversation between the pot and the audience. Through our work we give a nod to many cultures and styles that have made a connection with us, such as Asia and the Far East. The Mideast and Africa can be seen in some of our pieces. The Southwest of the U.S. and Native-American culture are also apparent. Lately we have been introduced to some of the great ceramic designers from the turn of the twentieth century... Fredrick Rhead, Clarice Cliff, Lenore Asbury, Edward T. Hurley, Kataro Shirayamadani, and the sublime Adelaide Alsop Robineau. Tile makers like Earnest Batchelder and Louis Comfort Tiffany, and those marvelous Saturday Evening Girls from Boston. Their influence can be seen in many of our recent works.
As a team, we each have specific jobs. Being the trained potter, I, Richard, do all of the throwing and building of pots. I get my hands dirty in the mud. We refer to this as the "wet work." I make the pieces, burnish, carve, and design the surface, trim the feet and add handles and other embellishments.
Carrin is the colorist. She is the one who takes the raw, carved and bisque fired pieces of pottery and breathes life into them through detailed application of glazes. Quiet patience and careful glazing techniques give each piece its own narrative energy.
All of our work is then put through the rigors of raku firing to give each piece its final appearance. The pieces are pulled out of a red-hot kiln, cooling quickly to give the surface glaze its characteristic crackle pattern, then finally being placed in a burning bed of wood shavings for the smoky finish. The process, Asian in its roots, American in its innovative use of fire and smoke, leaves its unique mark on each piece. Copper wire is added to each piece after firing as a final decorative element.
We call our style of work "American Raku" to distinguish it from the original, Japanese style of fast-firing and quick-cooling raku. (The Japanese did not put their raku through the smoking part of the firing.) We do, however, try to follow the example of Donyu, the third in line of raku masters, who was noted for his innovation in the use of the raku process. We hope to continue with our innovation of this technique to produce work that will add to the library of contemporary American ceramics.