Art department prepares for raku

Lily Spevak, Section B Manager

The Omaha North High School art department has been known to produce some top-of-the-line artworks, especially from the pottery classes. Soon, the advanced pottery classes will be adding to the list of pieces with the continued tradition of raku.

Raku is the Japanese method of firing pottery to 1800° in a controlled bonfire. When the pottery is red-hot, it’s put into a reduction atmosphere – in North’s case, metal trash cans full of saw dust and shredded paper – with big metal tongs. Once the saw dust and paper catch on fire from the heat of the pottery, the can is sealed. The outcome is different every time. It can range from metallic pots to vibrant bowls. The pottery is fragile, so it should only be used for decoration.

The students of advanced pottery participate in this process, which normally takes place in the lot behind the band hall on a teacher work day in April. Students filter in and out of the area as their works are completed; there are around 30 students in the area at any given time. They have to come wearing long sleeved shirts and jeans and are given long gloves and masks for their own safety. Pottery teachers Lindsay Foltz and Chamillia Hervey are in charge of the process, with art teachers Sarah Kolb and Justin Parker there as well.

North began doing raku many years ago when a few teachers decided to show students alternatives to regular firing and to get a hands-on experience with it. Central students were invited to join in.

Senior pottery student Megan Auman has had experience doing raku for the past two years. “It’s really fun,” she says. “You get up early and get to set things on fire in a group!” She says her first time doing it was “really crappy”, but her Venus Flytrap from last year turned out really well. “Hopefully this year’s will be really good,” she says.