The Bella Coola Valley Arts Council invites the community to a day of “Firey Family Fun” at the Art House in Hagensborg this coming Sunday (April 28).
In this first-ever event for Bella Coola, all day, from 11 to 5, Valley potters Theresa Marie Bagshaw, Marc Hedges, and Ernest Hall, along with a host of volunteers, will be smoking it up in an outdoor firing of pottery and clay plaques – weeks in the making and now ready for you the community to finish. The potters are donating their items and participation to this benefit event raising funds for the Council and its effort to maintain and enhance the Art House operations.
The Raku finishing U will do involves glazing the bisque-ware piece yourself (with some instruction/demonstration, of course) and putting it in a fast-firing outdoor kiln where it heats over the course of an hour or so before the excitement begins.
When the glazes are molten and the pieces are glowing hot (around 1900 degrees F.), the kiln is opened and the pieces are quickly transferred one at a time with long tongs to a container of leaves, straw, paper, etc. – materials that spontaneously explode into flame. Here’s where U spring back into action, “reducing” the oxygen atmosphere in the container. This creates a chemical reaction that produces the traditional white crackle and lustrous, iridescent metallic sheen typical of Raku pottery. Because of the labour-intensive process and high risk of cracking in the fast-cooling, Raku pottery is usually much more expensive than other types of pottery.
Raku is an ancient Japanese firing technique developed for the Buddhist Zen tea ceremony. It results in a porous clay body that is permeable and so is most often used for pottery that is primarily ornamental (although it can be made water-proof for use as a vase or other type of vessel.) The Zen of the moist warm tea bowl explains the Japanese meaning of the word “Raku”. Roughly translated, this is “the enjoyment of leisure”. However, participants at the Sunday “U-Fire” will agree that the process is not at all leisurely: It is a highly charged event with lots of action – and some down time too when volunteer musicians will entertain.
At the “U-Fire” Sunday, U buy a piece for $5 – $30 depending on size – and take over the finishing, clean off the soot and ashes, and take it home – all for the price of the piece U choose. (The pieces donated by the three potters would normally cost from $20 to $80 each!) Also at the “U-Fire” you will be able to buy a hot dog or burger – veggie too, chips and a soft drink – at typical prices.
Because the number of pieces and kiln space are limited, “U-Fire Raku” is offering advance tickets at $5 so that U can be guaranteed to get in on the action. Tickets are available at Bella Coola Wild Craft and Creekside Studio Gallery. Firing will also be staged in three shifts: 11:00 – 1:00, 1:00 – 3:00, 3:00 – 5:00. You might want to come early, expecting to return for a shift later in the day.
Spectators Welcome! Bring your camera – and a lawn chair if you can. This benefit event is made possible through the generous support of: Hagensborg Mercantile, Mecham’s Sales and Service, Townsite (Tru) Hardware, Kopas Store, Bella Coola Wild Craft, and Creekside Studio Gallery. Thanks also to School District #49 for the Arts Council use of the Art House venue.