Throughout March, nine lucky Year 9 students were selected to take part in a series of twilight ceramics sessions with Mr Hughes, our DT SCITT teacher. Students started off looking at Japanese culture, by learning about the tea ceremony, and doing some research on different styles of tea bowl. Their challenge was to design, and produce their own tea bowl, which would be processed in the Raku firing, where pots are fired in an outside gas kiln to 1000 degrees C, and then placed into a bucket of combustible materials which is what gives it the unique Raku finish.
Students experimented with a range of hand building techniques, and were then asked to select their favourite method to produce their tea bowls. These had to bisque fired and glazed with special glazes prior to our whole day firing workshop. It was a freezing cold day to be outside, and the students had to produce work books, drawings, and clay models whilst waiting for the kiln to get to temperature, as well as documenting every step of the process.
Just before lunch, we lifted the lid of the kiln to find our pots were glowing red hot. Mr Hughes used tongs to lift each pot off, and Mrs McGregor threw sawdust on top of them as they were placed in a metal dustbin. This produces carbon which reacts with the clay to achieve the desired outcome. It’s a very experimental technique, and results are always unpredictable. It was a battle against the cold wind and Cornish mizzle to get the kiln to reach 1000 degrees, but we are all happy with our tea bowls, and it was interesting comparing the before and after photos, and seeing how our pots had changed.
The students all said they would like to do more with ceramics, some commented on how exciting it was to watch the scorching hot pots being taken out of the fire, how they had enjoyed exploring different ways to work with clay, and they also liked the fact that things didn’t turn out as expected.
Mr Hughes and Mrs McGregor