Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"The Art of Raku"

Joseph Woodford is a ceramic artist from Chandler, AZ. This is his 10th year doing the "Celebration of Fine Art" show in Scottsdale (my second!). His work is collected by a plethora of famous people including Barry Bonds! Joe fell in love with this form of art in high school and realized at that moment what he would do in his lifetime. His Raku art comes from expressions with clay that have an African, Japanese and Southwestern theme. "My work is a never ending road to improvement. I keep pushing myself in trying to create new things to make each piece unique."

Raku is a 16th century Japanese art form. Joe takes a block of clay and goes through shaping the clay into different bowls and disks. He then adds textures very carefully to make each totem or vessel unique and to ensure that no two pieces are alike. The sculpted clay is then fired in a kiln at 1800 degrees, thus turning the clay into pottery. Joe puts a glaze on each piece, which contains copper carbonate, and then places in a gas kiln firing again at 1800 degrees. Lastly, the piece is removed from the heat and covered to stop the oxygen from hitting the sculpture. Joe states, “You must be careful as to when the cover must come off to obtain just the right rainbow of colors.”

I was fascinated today as I watched the whole process. It looked so much more exciting than applying paint to canvas! All that fire and steam! The end result is always a surprise...you just never know what you're going to get! Joe was definitely in his element as I watched him work his ceramic magic.

As artists, we are constantly evolving. The "vessel" above represents Joe's latest artistic breakthrough. He couldn't wait to share it with me. It is truly an incredible piece. Not only is it a clay pot shimmering with beautiful Raku glazes...but it represents clean lines coupled with raw, uninhibited textures. Screws, razors, and steel barbs protrude from the rough clay twisted at the nape. It is really quite beautiful. I know what it feels like as an artist to have an "Ah-ha" moment. Nothing is more exciting than hitting a new level, artistically. It is those moments that keep us creating!

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