The Raku Pottery technique

Raku Buddha by thebuddhabuilderThe Buddhabuilder

The word “raku” means “happiness in the accident.” I have also seen an interpretation that says it is derived from the Kanji character meaning “enjoyment” or “ease”. Originally created for the Korean tea ceremony, this technique was subsequently found by ceramic adherents in the sixteenth century in Japan, where the great masters such as Sen no Rikyu were able to give full scope to the art based on a particular process: the fast removal of the piece from the furnace and covering it with flammable materials like natural wood sawdust to inhibit the absorption of oxygen to the molten enamel, which produced the characteristic cracking effect from the thermal shock. Also the colors were rendered with a more metallic appearance . The process of Raku firing differs from other firing methods because the pots are removed from the kiln at their maximum temperature.

The unique look of  Japanese Raku pottery is achieved by utilizing  both smoke and fire in the Raku kiln to create an unpredictable and unique style. Firstly the pottery is bisque fired , than glazed and fired in a Raku Kiln followed by enhancement in a reduction chamber. As opposed to normal pottery firing where the wares cool down slowly in the kiln and removed with gloves, Raku ware is removed immediatly with tongs. In the traditional Japanese firing process, the pot is removed from the  kiln while it is still glowing from the heat and put directly into water or allowed to cool in the open air

Glazing : Raku pottery can be produced from any clay, but if you use the special Raku clay it is more suited to withstand higher temperatures and thermal shock. After placing the completed piece in a kiln and firing it, you apply the Raku glaze by either spaying, brushing or sponging .  Some of the Raku glazes produce cracking and result in a spider webbing effect. Also you can combine both a glazed and unglazed natural smokey effect on the pottery

Raku Pottery Kiln

Removal of raku pottery from a kiln at la porte du soleil, Paris


Raku Firing : The first step of bisque firing hardens the clay and needs a level of at least clone 08. Then the glaze is applied and virtually any low temperature glaze is appropriate for Raku. The next step is to fire in a Raku kiln ( F 1800 ) and leave for around 30 minutes before placing in the reduction chamber. A metal can with a lid can be used for this stage, even a metal rubbish bin will work ok and  the pottery can remain in this chamber for  15 to 90 minutes. Combustible material such as wood, newspaper, cardboard and dried leaves can be used, they all produce a different effect. The smoke from these  materials all contribute to changing the colors and patterns of the Raku pottery. As the fire consumes the oxygen within the can, it also draws the oxygen out of the raku pottery and its glaze. This process is called post fire reduction. It is the post fire reduction stage that creates the unique look of raku pottery. The unpredictability of the process is essentially the result of the removal of oxygen in the reduction chamber. 

Raku reduction Flaming

Raku reduction on a bed of vegetable matter


The final stage is to dunk the piece in cold water and clean with a stiff brush or some abrasive material to remove the ash. Raku pottery is mainly used for decoration rather than being functional.

Raku pottery was first developed by Japanese potters in the 16th century and it still holds a mystique and is embraced by amateur and professional potters till this day. The appeal was heightened in Japan when the ware was created for use in Japanese tea ceremonies.

Raku Pottery Jug by Jason Outlaw

Raku Pottery Jug in Copper with glass melted over handles – Jaaon Outlaw

Jason Outaw and Rosalie De Fini Outlaw Raku planter

Wheel Thrown Raku Pottery by Jason Outaw and Rosalie De Fini Outlaw of Outlaw Pottery

 Onion Shaped Raku Vase Red Crow Pottery

 Onion Bulb Shaped Raku Pottery Vase

Red Crow Pottery – Judy – flickr

Hand carved Fuscia Vessel by Christopher Mathie

 Hand-carved Fuscia Vessel – Christopher Mathie

Western Raku pottery vase

A vase glazed and fired using the Western Raku technique, showing the soot, crackle glazing, and random oxidation typical of this pottery form.

Ryonyu chawan

A red and black Raku chawan made by (and featuring the mark of) Ryonyu XI, potter of the 9th generation of Ryonyu potters. 

Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France

la porte du soleil raku vessel

la porte du soleil

More Raku see French Raku Studio

Julie Risak hand-built teapot

Julie Risak’s hand-built teapot.

K,Winograde Pit fired raku vase

K.Winograde Vase

Elizabeth Ritter raku horse

An Elizabeth Ritter Raku Sculptured Horse

Raku Copper Matt Bottles by Chris Hawkins

Hand thrown raku fired fumed copper matt bottles

Chris Hawkins

Raku ceramic sculpture figure 41 Torso 12 - Anthony Anderson

41 Torso 12 – Anthony Anderson

Raku torso with Copper Sand glaze. ceramic sculpture figure

 Dancer Raku fired figurine, Charlotte Munning

“The Dancer”

Raku fired figurine, Charlotte Munning


Raku Jar alcohol fumed-Nick LaFone

Raku Jar alcohol fumed – Nick LaFone

Odyssey Center -River Arts

Raku Bottle with incisions  – Lori Duncan

‘ Good Samaritan ‘ – Christopher Mathie

 Red Raku Vessel by Christopher Mathie

Christopher Mathie – Rich red raku vesselGina Mars - Raku Fired Vessel

My latest inspiration comes from middle eastern architecture. The pieces have minaret like tops on them and some are covered in gold or copper leaf. I also enjoy adding sculptural elements to my work.–

Gina Mars

Marianne Wulffraat-Keramic Jar

Marianne Wulffraat-Kerami

Raku Vase – Manor Loft

 Raku Aligator Pillow - Gise Trauttmansdorff

Raku fired Aligator Pillow – Gise Trauttmansdorff


Hagi yaki ware Japanese tea bowl – Raku chawan – Keizo Takeshita

Janet Mansfield raku vessel

Janet Mansfield

John Kellum raku teapot

John Kellum raku teapot





  1. sherylizz
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    what an astounding head. LOVE IT MUCH.

  2. Linda Gannon
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful display of raku!!! Our club is having a raku firing soon and this array is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Anders Hedin
    Posted June 23, 2015 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Marvelous pictures! I have a suggestion to correct your info. Sen no Rikyu and the lineage of Raku masters, never used reduction when they made raku chawans. Black colour was achieved by using Kamogava stone grinded and used as glace on the black chawans. Reduction connected to the Raku technique is an American invention.
    Yours, Anders

  4. Theresa Reuter
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I have been making raku earrings for a few years and I am looking for recipes for a matt rainbow effect as well as a metallic copper rainbow luster…do any of you have some recipes for me to play with?

  5. Nicolette cornwallis
    Posted February 26, 2018 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Raku, brings memory of my zen work
    Pottering with pots
    Fabululous, with stephen


  6. toko
    Posted June 2, 2018 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Originally created for the Korean tea ceremony..?
    That is not correct.

  7. Posted December 31, 2020 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I rarely recommend Raku for functional purposes, but there’s a few exceptions like mate or tea ceremonies. The main concerns are glazes possibly leaching chemicals into the liquid, and the cracks and the porous clay body triggering some potentially harmful microbial process. To be on the safe side today there are glazes that were proved and labeled food safe through regulated leach tests exposing the glaze surface to acidic food for several days. Also, Raku mate gourds can (and should) be “cured” just as natural, calabash gourds. The curing process takes care of the porous material and seals the gourd from the inside, making it safe to use. Still, I embrace the Zen idea of Raku being pottery without utility or function that must be approached with a different criterion in mind.

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