If you don’t like the rain, you may have missed out on one of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council’s first events of the summer: the second annual Raku in the Valley at Thompson Regional Park.
Yet the setting was perfect to practice an old Japanese technique of glazing pottery. Nestled into the cloud-filled valley a short drive up Chilliwack Lake Road, the wet weather lent a sense of mysticism. And luckily, it didn’t keep too many people away.
“We still had lots of people here,” said Patti Lawn, executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council (CCAC). “We have a whole bunch of people coming to watch, because it’s a fascinating thing if you don’t know about that pottery form.”
Raku produces beautiful ornamental cracked- or metallic-finish pots. One begins by choosing the type of glaze: either clear, which results in blackened spider-web cracks, or an eye-catching, rainbow-coloured metal glaze.
At its maximum temperature, the pot is taken out of the kiln, transferred to the ground, and covered in shredded paper, which ignites. Then, metal tins are placed overtop to hold in the heat and smoke. This part of the process cracks the clear-glazed pots, allowing black smoke to set into the cracks. With the metallic glaze, the sheen is brought out by the heat without cracking it.
The entire process takes roughly an hour and a half, from glazing to firing to cooling. Once cool, the pots are wiped clean of excess smoke and residue.
All 65 pots made for the glazing process sold out well in advance of the event. While pots can be any size, depending on the tins that cover them, the pots used at the event were smaller for portability and ease.
“Last year, because it was the first time, we had pots we could sell here,” Lawn said. “This time we don’t.”
The event is made possible by a partnership between the arts council and Devon Road Pottery and Rainforest Pottery. Potters from the local studios perform the raku portion, and the arts council puts on the event, which also includes vendors and food, as well as providing volunteers to clean the finished pots before handing them over.
To the right of the raku pit where two portable kilns were located, were pottery vendors, artisan soap-makers, and hand-crafted jewellers. The Chilliwack River Valley Fire Department was also on scene to manage any possible issues from the heat and flames that go with the raku process, and to host a barbeque by donation.
With the success of this year’s Raku in the Valley, the CCAC plans to expand next year.
“We’re going to try to double the number of pots,” said Lawn.