From the editor: Every summer pottery instructor Allison Sandeman runs a raku firing for the ceramics students and anyone else who's joined in over the year. They use wood and gas kilns and manipulate the environment of the pots during and immediately after firing to affect the glaze, though it remains a highly unpredictable alchemy. Despite a miserably rainy day at West Dean, glazing for this year's raku proceeded as planned. Our cameras all got passed around a bit but I think all of these were taken by Tomo, Mariko, Tiago, Rachel, and me. Rachel will take over from here:

Raku is a traditional Japanese firing technique that has been used for centuries to produces unique coloured glazes and patterns on ceramic ware. Meaning "enjoyment", "comfort", and "ease", the technique involves firing biscuit pots at low temperatures (1000 C) removing them from the kiln while they are searing hot and rapidly cooling them in water or in a container filled with combustible materials. But more about this in the next post.... First we must glaze!

Before glazing all the pots were biscuit fired in a standard kiln.

Glazing can be an extremely exciting time - the anticipation is palpable...

Introducing our sansei Alison Sandeman (Ali)

Safety first... The preparation stages are key is the fast-paced world of Raku and one of the most important jobs is chopping the wood, which will be used to stoke the largest kiln on the big day. Our resident strong man, Alex was in charge of this.

Ali certainly has a taste in pots... But here she is testing the porosity of the pots - the more porous the pot, the water in the glaze will be absorbed more easily and the glaze will be thicker.

Dust can stop the glaze sticking to the pots so as a preparatory measure they were given a light brush.

And so to the glazing process itself... We used a variety of traditional Raku glazes which all produced unique, interesting and often unexpected effects when fired.

And with a bit of dipping...

...And pouring...

The glazing process was complete with no stress or worry!

Apart from Tiago, who went a little dotty with all the glazing... The primary glazes used were white crackle and copper glazes, although as Tiago has used here, there were also reddish glazes and yellow ones.

With all that glazing there was still time for a cuppa.