This is an intensive firing course, where you will learn how to fire your work (your own or provided by us) using saggar, raku or barrel firing techniques over two days. The workshop takes place at Abi's beautiful studio on the edge of Dartmoor in Christow, Devon and is run by Abi Higgins and Alison West
Christow is a village in the Teign Valley on the eastern edge of Dartmoor National Park with easy access to Exeter.
Raku Firing. The name Raku means ease, pleasure and enjoyment. With its roots in Japan, the technique has altered over the years to produce some of the most interesting and gorgeous effects found in ceramics. Intensely hands on, it is sheer pleasure to experience the low-temperature, fast-firing process which involves removing pottery from the kiln while at bright red heat and placing it into containers with combustible materials.
Saggar Firing was originally developed to protect wares from ash- slagging and flame-flashing in wood firings, but in contemporary use, with clean-burning gas firings, the process is used in exactly the opposite way: to contain fumes around a pot so that the pot picks up colour and pattern from the fumes. Saggars are the lidded containers used to contain and isolate pots during a saggar firing.
Barrel Firing developed as an alternative to long pit firings with the advantage of getting to high temperatures making it possible for added oxides, carbonates and copper wire to produce stronger colours. A steel barrel is loaded with sawdust, straw and wood together with metallic colourants and pots and fired over several hours.
Over the weekend you will –
• Learn how to prepare your pots for firing.
• Learn how to load and fire a raku kiln, load a saggar and fire in a gas kiln and pack and fire the barrel.
• Be introduced to wax resist techniques, sacrificial glaze (naked raku) and reduction glazes with demonstration of applying terrasigillata slip.
You will be instructed by two teachers, so plenty of help and advice throughout the weekend.
Bisque fired pots can be provided at extra cost or bring your own bisque fired masterpieces. Details of how to prepare and burnish your own pots are below.
THE COST FOR TWO DAYS IS £320.00
CLAY AND BISQUE FIRING
Remember that we will be firing up to 40 pots so it is really important that you keep to the guidelines below so that everyone gets a fair share.
Maximum of 8 pots each no larger than 15cm in diameter and 20cm tall and smaller if at all possible. In particular we cannot manage flat pieces such as tiles as they take too much room in the kilns. No jewellery please. We will provide a few extra pots at a small extra cost if it is not possible to bring your own.
Any well grogged clay which resists thermal shock is suitable and we find Ashraf Hanna usually works well. You will need to biscuit fire all your pots before you bring them. Do make sure you don’t trap any air in your pots when making them as raku firing is much more rapid than normal firing and will expose flaws in making sometimes resulting in pots blowing up in the kiln. Also, if you make fully enclosed forms like pebbles, make sure that the air escape hole is larger than normal i.e. not a pin hole.
Fire your pot[s][ to a maximum of 980c degrees. Anything higher tends to destroy the burnish.
PREPARING THE POT SURFACE
Get the surface of your pot as smooth as you can and then apply a fine grained slip at the leather hard stage. Some people use a porcelain slip. We use a slip composed of 50% body clay plus 50% porcelain. Sieve the slip at 200 mesh to get it as fine as possible and then apply as many coats as you can. Terrasigillata can also be applied at leather hard stage should you be familiar with the technique. .
it is not necessary to burnish your pot, but if you are familiar with this process here are some tips:-
Allow the slipped pot to dry to nearly bone dry. The actual dryness which suits your personal technique varies from person to person and you can only find it by trial and error. Try on a relatively hidden part of the pot. If your burnishing leaves unsightly indentations, your pot isn’t dry enough. If burnishing doesn’t produce a shine and leaves the surface dusty, your pot is too dry. See below for a possible way out.
Now you’ve got the perfect dryness[!], burnish by smoothing the whole of the surface using your chosen tool. Different tools are used depending on your preference. Some people use the back of a spoon, some use a polished pebble. This should give you a smooth, polished surface. You can repeat the burnishing to improve it if you wish. It is worth finishing the surface by rubbing it with a thin plastic bag stretched across your finger.
If your pot was too dry you can try moistening it in sections by dipping your finger in water, smoothing that on your pot a section at a time and then burnishing that area.
Courses are held at Christow Pottery in Devon.
The Mill, Village Road, Christow, Devon EX6 7LX
Christow village is set high in the Teign Valley close to the Kennick and Tottiford reservoirs and has breathtaking countryside all around. It is a former mining area - tin, sliver, copper and manganese all mined locally. There is a church (with a notable granite tower), pub, post office, local shops, and accommodation. The Cantonteign falls are close by. Local B&B accommodation is available nearby.
Dartmoor, Exeter EX6 7HH
St John House
Trusham TQ13 0NR
Kennick Barn, Christow, Exeter EX6 7NZ
The Old Barn, Dry Lane, Christow Devon EX6 7PF
07837 988619. 01647 253373
THE BAKEHOUSE HIGHER ASHTON - Air BnB
KENNICK SAWMILL - Christow.
THE NOBODY INN – Doddiscombleigh
01647 252 394
Running Order for the Week end
9.30am - Coffee and introductions
10:00am - Choosing the pots you would like to saggar fire, raku fire and barrel fire. You will be shown how to prepare your pots with oxcides and organic materials collected around the garden for the saggar and barrel. You will then begin loading the saggar and barrel. Once completed we can start firing!
1:00am - Lunch Delicious
homemade bread soup, flapjacks and brownies provided.
2:00pm - Prepare your pots for raku firing the next day - Applying slips and glazes for different raku techniques including naked raku. Glazes and slips provided but you are welcome to bring your own to experiment with.
3.30pm - Tea break and finishing raku glaz preperation.
4.30pm - Finish for the day
9:30am - Meet for coffee
9.50am - The very exciting unpacking the saggar and barrel.
Washing/scrubbing/cleaning pots - The 12.00pm - The Raku kilns are fired up
1:00pm - Lunch provided. More delicious food.
2:00pm - Continue final raku firings and finishing pots - Advice on polishing and sealing you can do at home
4:00pm - Finish
Timings may vary and it may not be possible to fire all your pieces during the course but we will raku as many pieces as we can in the time available, with the aim of everyone completing the weekend with wonderful pots to take home!
If you are interested in our courses please click the "Book Now" button below or at the top and go straight to the booking form.
My second time doing this workshop. Not that I didn’t learn anything two years ago, it was just that it was so good the first time I was determined to return and introduce a friend of mine who was just beginning her pottery “adventure”. I can only say it was even better the second time around - and on top of everything we were blessed with lovely weather.
Abi and Alison are not only knowledgable and experienced in their craft but are friendly and patient and always engaging. They had made strenuous efforts to keep everybody safe in these strange viral times and to put everybody at ease.
The whole two days were a joy. Exciting, and inspirational. It’s given me so much more confidence now, to improve on the techniques and skills learned and to advance with a raku kiln of my own. I cannot recommend the experience too highly.
No doubt I will be back for another ‘booster’ session in the not too distant future. It’s worth it for the food alone!
I learnt loads on this enjoyable course about raku, barrel and saggar firing methods, not least because not everything was predictable.
Thanks to Alison and Abi, I now feel confident to try these myself and experiment till I find my own preferences.
I'm experienced in other forms of pottery and am very glad I've added to my knowledge through this course.
Beautiful setting, delicious food, two very experienced inspirational potters and teachers, relaxed informal atmosphere. Each of us prepared pots for saggar, barrel and raku firings carried out over the weekend, with practical info about safety, firing methods, kilns, glazes , colouring effects , cleaning and finishing pots ,
It was exciting and dramatic , strongly recommended..
I was really impressed by this course. It was packed with information, activity and comprehensively covered the really interesting art of raku and saggar firing. Alison and Abi were helpful and encouraging at all times managing to spread themselves around a group of 7 very well . A huge amount of effort must have been put into running everything including the delicious food. The setting was in the beautiful Devon countryside which for an urban dweller was very enjoyable. I would highly recommend this course and hope to return again next year.
Thank you Abi and Alison for a great weekend it was fascinating to see how the different firings came out! I'm feeling inspired to try barrel firing. The food was absolutely DELICIOUS 😋
Hi guys! Firstly can I just say thank you so so much to Alison & Abigail! This weekend was everything I had hoped it would be and more! Thank you for opening up the world of firing for me, and for inviting us into your beautiful house & garden, and feeding us exceptional yum food too! Xxx
Together with three friends, I recently participated in this workshop in the beautiful Devon village of Christow. Despite our different skill levels (from professional potter to evening class enthusiast) we all really enjoyed the workshop and learned an enormous amount about alternative firing techniques. Abi and Alison engaged with each of us at exactly the right level and were encouraging and helpful to the more tentative members of our group. Despite being - importantly – very safety conscious, they both clearly enjoyed the fun, drama and surprise of these different techniques, as did we.
Everything is well explained, questions answered knowledgeably. These ladies know their stuff. Thoroughly enjoyed my time at The Mill. Food was fantastic.
Looking forward to seeing the results of our efforts. Highly recommend this course.
Thanks to Abi and Alison.The course was certainly worth coming to England to from Iceland. I have taken with me a lot of information on saggar and barrel firing. Everybody on the course produced interesting work and I am certainly happy with my 12 pieces I managed to take back to Iceland in my hand luggage.
Well done you two, you have impressed and inspired me with your talent and professionalism. The lunches, the environment in lovely Devon and the group of people were also fantastic.
Helga Lára Haraldsdóttir
What a busy, fun packed weekend we've had! Lovely setting and great guidance in the techniques of Saggar, Barrel and Raku firing. It was amazing to learn, experience and reveal the effects from the different firings and be surrounded by lovely people sharing a love of ceramics.
Wonderful food, beautiful surroundings and knowledgable fun hosts too!
Highly recommended if you're visiting Devon or a local pottery enthusiast, don't just take my word for it...book your place now!
Such a great weekend learning under the instruction of Abi and Alison. Our group was an eclectic mix of professional potters, enthusiasts and in my case beginners. It just suited everyone!
The skills we were able to take away with us are simply amazing, I had no idea I was to learn so much in a matter of days. The excitement when the finished product is revealed was just another aspect of the weekend I was not expecting.
“Well done guys”! Just a beautifully designed and executed course that would suit anyone and the homemade lunches were to die for!
Hi Abi and Alison
Just to thank you both for such an informative and wonderful course at the weekend. It was just so nice to get away and meet like minded people since being a potter can be a lonely profession. I came away on a high determined to get back in the studio again but of course that will have to wait until after I get back from my holiday and with this weather it can't come soon enough!
Good luck with the next course.
Dear Abi and Alison
I just wanted to thank you for the great workshop last week-end. I really enjoyed myself and learnt a lot. You are both very good teachers and the group was really nice. Although I haven't done any pottery myself yet (!), I am very motivated now to try. The pots I decorated are lovely - Mike was most impressed. I still have to polish them so that I can take some pictures and send them off to my friends.
Attached are some photographs that I took over the week-end. Please keep me posted on any future workshops that you might do!
Thanks again and all the best
Dear Alison and Abi
This is to thank you and say how much I enjoyed the 2 day workshop and that I learned a huge amount, which I hope will allow me to produce some more nice pots in the future.
Sorry for the delay in replying but the day after I got back my very first-ever ceramics exhibition started in a local gallery, which I am sharing with two local artists It is going pretty well and I have already sold two of the nicest pieces that I made with you at Christow...