Acquire hand building pottery techniques and throwing on a
potter's wheel using a range of Raku and stoneware clays. Develop
your skills and ideas with one-to-one tuition and advice. Raku
pieces will be made in the first two days then biscuit fired ready
for glazing and firing using exciting outdoor Raku firing
Raku week at West Dean brings together creative making, using stoneware and Raku clays, and the excitement of the Raku glaze firings. You are able to focus on throwing or hand building techniques or both as you wish. Ideas are developed combining design and form with practical aspects of pottery.
Raku is a Japanese technique originally developed for making the tea ceremony wares but adapted in the West for a broader usage. Pots are glazed and decorated outdoors and then fired in a hot kiln to 1000c. After firing, the pots are plugged into sawdust and water to achieve the exciting raku effects.
Our first session starts with a short introductory talk and discussion followed by a practical session on clay preparation (wedging and kneading). The tutor will give a couple of demonstrations and the evening will end with a short audio visual presentation on the Raku process.
If you are beginning your experience of working with clay, the emphasis will be on getting the 'feel' for clay and making. This will include clay preparation, making thumb/ pinch pots, learning the hand building techniques of coiling and slabbing and simple decoration. There may be opportunities to try out the potters wheel. If you already possess technical skills you will be encouraged to further develop these skills and your creative ideas.
Further audio visual sessions will take place as relevant to the course mainly in the evenings.
The three kilns we use for the Raku firings are wood and gas fired. The wood fired kiln and one of gas kilns have been built by ourselves, and students will have the option of building/ or learning how the kilns are constructed. Kiln plans, material lists and glaze recipes will be available.
Most of the work for the Raku is made in the early part of the week. While this is drying and being biscuit fired, we continue with the general course and then the glazing and Raku firings take place on Thursday and Friday.
The tutor may make contact with you by phone nearer to the beginning of the course to help with the planning and answer any questions.
Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above
Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.
6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).
8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.
Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.
From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).
Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.
Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.
Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.
(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)
Firing and Glazing options:
1. Leave any raw, finished pieces that you wish to keep, for biscuit firing, basic glazing and re-firing by the College, for collection within six months.
2. Leave raw, finished pieces for biscuit firing at the College. You can then book a place on a Glazing Day and glaze your own work (allowing 4 weeks for your work to be biscuit fired). This work will be re-fired after glazing and available for collection within six months.
3. Take away your unfired pots for firing and glazing elsewhere.
Course Reading List:
For those interested in reading any books before the course, the following may be in your public library: The Craft of the Potter by Michael Casson (BBC Publications) The Potter's Book by Bernard Leach (Faber & Faber) The Complete Potter's Companion by Tony Birks (Conran Octopus) The Potter's Manual by Kenneth Clark (McDonalds) A Raku Handbook by John Dickerson Raku by Ian Byres (Batsford) Raku by Tim Andrews (A&C Black) Raku - Investigations into Fire by David Jones (Crowood Press) Raku by John Mathieson (A&C Black) 10,000 Years of Pottery by Emmanuel Cooper (British Museum Press) Sources of Inspiration by Carolyn Genders (A&C Black) The Workshop Guide to Ceramics by Duncan Hooson and Tony Quinn (Thames and Hudson)
Alison Sandeman is a long-standing tutor at West Dean. She makes functional individual pieces in stoneware, porcelain and Raku. She has a special interest in outdoor firing techniques.