It was about 90 degrees on Sunday, but that didn’t stop a group of Blue Ridge Potters Guild member from making it even hotter. The group gets together on a regular basis, this time to build Raku kilns in Becky Carr‘s driveway.
Raku is a a type of Japanese pottery traditionally used in a Japanese tea ceremony. And the kilns they made out of metal trash cans, a special kind of insulation, fire bricks and torches. The kinds of pottery they fired is often considered American Raku.
Jim Privitera, who opened a pottery studio in Vinton called Earthworks Pottery, last year has been making pottery for about 12 years. Carr has always been interested in pottery but took her first class about three years ago, a gift from her daughter, and fell in love. Ruth Pierce has been doing it since 1993 and Doris Patton and Barbara Wise for many years, also.
Although the group met in different ways, they all met and became close friends in the last three years.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time. We do it to bounce ideas off each other,” Pierce said.
In just an hour, the group had one kiln fired and about three others under construction. Wearing masks, gloves, and long sleeves they had placed their Raku creations into the kiln, careful not to touch the sides or other pottery, and waited for the kiln to reach 1800 to 2000 degrees.
Once the kiln reached about 1900 degrees, things got exciting. Raku tongs were grabbed and in a congenial effort, the lid was removed with smoke billowing out, and each potter reached into the incredible heat to remove their piece. Then the piece is allowed some air shock and then placed into another bucket filled with newspaper which instantly catch fire. After the piece is engulfed in flames and smoke, the piece is removed and placed in water. As soon as the piece emerges, a masterpiece is born. What once looked like a plain white, pink or blue vase (depending on the glaze) came out in beautiful reds and greens.
As a spectator, it was amazing seeing something so ordinary turn into something so beautiful. Of course, the potters, who have done this for many years, politely critiqued each others piece.
“We are a very cohesive, congenial group,” Wise said. “We share our ideas, thoughts, expertise, mistakes, and we all get along.”
The disheartening part about all kinds of pottery making is that each piece doesn’t always make it to a show.
“People don’t understand that most pieces never make it,” Patton said.
“You spend so much time carving and they don’t always make it to even the first firing,” Wise said.
Some of the very pieces made on Sunday, Aug. 29 will be on display at the Blue Ridge Potters Guild Annul Show and Sale Oct. 8 through 10. This year’s show will be held at Patrick Henry High School for the first time.
The show has been moved this year because of the need for more space and increased guild membership. This year’s theme is “A Little Bit Out of Round”.
Work from potters all around the Roanoke Valley will be featured and sold.
Annual Show and Sale: Oct. 8 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Oct. 10 from noon until 5 p.m.