Sheri Samson Participants and the instructors uncover their Raku efforts from the cooled down sandy pit Sunday morning.

Sheri Samson
Participants and the instructors uncover their Raku efforts from the cooled down sandy pit Sunday morning.

To observe the process of Raku in its primitive form of production is one of the most exciting art forms one could participate in. As a handful of pottery artists came to the Cliff House in Walker Lake, a few locals assisted this sponsorship with Robin and Rich McGregor from Carson City Pottery leading the weekend retreat.

With properly prepared pottery pieces in tow, the ritual began on Saturday with a pit dug in the sand. Pieces were wired with leafs, feathers, organics and sea shell materials, all of which would create unique color and patterning from the mineral transfer. With glazed choices completed, the pieces were gingerly housed within the high heating process in a portable kiln, set up on proper fire blocks and safely attended to.

Later, as the sun subsided over the mountains and the sky darkened, the pottery took on the much anticipated portion of being moved from the kiln with oversized tongs. While the pieces reflected a red-hot glow they were carefully placed into a trashcan of burning newspaper and combustible material. This act of drama brought on the reduction of chemicals and created the exciting indeterminate patterning and variance of color. Leaving this sector of items to burn out was similar to enjoying a campfire with friends. The students expressed that the evening portion was an added enjoyment, as was the time spent together. “The form of Raku is another extension of individual creative expression,” shared one participant.

None of the processes lacked excitement as the final anticipation to see the results were on schedule Sunday morning. It was then that the different stages were recovered, with everyone gathering around as if presents were being passed out.

“We really don’t know what the effort will reveal, or if each piece will survive all the transfers without cracking, but it’s worth the chance of making a beautiful piece that can be shared and displayed. There are so many differences, as we can even use a bunsen burner in the glazing to pull out the irons which creates a more metallic look.”

McGregor pointed to a pile of miscellaneous metals, wires and artistic tools. “Some of the pottery will have glazing, or other partial techniques. The Raku methods can vary, but the outcome remains a mystery.”

Rich McGregor spoke as a true teacher of the art, as he and his wife sell their custom pieces in Carson City. The couple also enjoys instructing others in many methods of pottery. Robin gingerly removed the pit’s cover. Bending into the hole, she began handling every object with care as the pit revealed many pieces with difference hues and shapes. None of the items would be food safe, so she referred to each piece as “pure art” in an individual form. Melvin Brown from Schurz was one of the locals instrumental in bringing the group to Walker Lake.

“It was my wish, as well as the others, to try out the process as a run-through this weekend. I can tell you that we will now consider a well-planned retreat being scheduled again. The atmosphere was wonderful and I would enjoy seeing young people participate, to expand their artistic interests. This process is a gift to not only watch, but to be part of.”

The McGregor’s can be reached by calling 775-313-8628.