Pottery and ceramics

Raku and firing techniques with Alison Sandeman

Ref: S5D09852

Suitable for all

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About this course

Acquire hand building skills and throwing on a potter's wheel using Raku and stoneware clays. Raku pieces will be biscuit fired ready for glazing and firing using exciting outdoor Raku firing methods.

Course Description

Discover creative making, using stoneware and Raku clays, and the excitement of Raku glaze firing. 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. 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 methods.

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.

The first evening 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 you 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, you can expect to continue with the general course and then the glazing and Raku firings take place on the last two days.


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.

Daily timetable

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.

Last day

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)

Course Materials


  • The cost of all clay, glazing and firing costs (large work in size and quantity may be charged extra).
  • Basic tool kits are provided in the Pottery for use on the course.

What students need to bring

  • It would be good but not essential to come with some ideas, functional and/or sculptural, and any natural objects for inspiration.
  • Overall/apron
  • Books of interest and some natural objects
  • Suitable clothing for Raku firing – e.g. jeans, old sweatshirt, long sleeved shirt, covered shoes and waterproofs. Please note: double layers of clothing will need to be worn when unpacking the kilns
  • Torch
  • Old towel and 20 clean plastic shopping bags
  • Cardboard boxes for taking away the finished Raku work

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Pottery tools, pottery knife
  • Rough paper, notebook, or sketch pad and pencil
  • Wood or plastic ruler, plastic set square
  • Watercolour paint brushes and/or Chinese brushes
  • Natural sponge
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 four 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

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.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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