Guild gets away
Kiln gods bring luck

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 13/99) - Members of the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts recently had a little weekend getaway -- with a twist.

Seven women took off to the Girl Guide camp at Prelude Lake armed with pots, kilns and garbage cans, everything you need for a little fun in the sun. Or should I say, fun in the fire?

Raku is a primitive form of pottery that involves painting already fired bisque pots with specially-made glazes that have been sifted and mixed.

The pot is then placed in a propane kiln and heated until it is "red, molten and shiny," explains Bev Matthews, one of the weekend's participants.

The pot then goes through a process of "reduction" when it is placed in a garbage can containing flammable materials, such as newspaper, sawdust or dry leaves.

"Twenty minutes later you move it to cold water," Matthews says.

This leaves the maker with a unique piece whose evolution is completely unpredictable.

It should be mentioned that before any of this is carried out, it is customary for a potter to create a "kiln god" for good luck.

"It can be a clay cat, woman, bear or dinosaur. It sits by the kiln," Matthews says.

The group left the retreat with 20 to 30 pots all told -- some are for personal use, others will be sold at the Guild's Fireweed Studio open only on summer weekends.

"It was our first time (doing this)," says Matthews.

"But we'd kind of like to do it once or twice a year."

Matthews says that the retreat provides a great opportunity for new people to get together, get out of town and bond.