P O T T E R Y T E C H N I Q U E S & R A K U G L A Z E S
For over fifteen years Michael Simmons has used two basic techniques in
making raku pottery; hand building and using molds to press the raku clay into.
In hand building, Michael presses together several rolled out clay strips, adds
slip, and scores the pieces to weld the pieces together thoroughly. An example of this process is the "Ivy Woman of The Woods." In this example, Michael also has to weld each ivy leaf onto the outside of the molded mask; making sure every leaf has all the leafs detail and texture pressed in thoroughly.
The Raku process is essentially a mystical journey. The part Michael enjoys most, though mostly physical, is the iridescent and metallic glazes that appear as the art piece catches on fire. After pulling a ceramic piece out of a gas kiln, setting it on fire in a can full of leaves, grocery bag papers, or sawdust, it's always a mystery as to when to pull out the raku piece from the ashes. More greens and blue-greens can be obtained by lifting the lid and pulling out the pottery. If the pottery is left it in longer, more coppers, golds, red purples, and blue purples are achieved. In the end, the final glazed piece of pottery has a serendipitous nature to it — you never really know what glaze colors you will get! Each of his works are very unique in this way.