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Zen and the art of Raku

Astrid Kruse spins a Raku pot on one of her two pottery wheels. She has worked in ceramics since 1987.

Daron Letts
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 01/05) - Raku pottery was developed 400 years ago in Japan when zen masters adopted the style for its simplicity.

Yellowknife artists Vivian Gustafson and Astrid Kruse like Raku because of its unique shimmering finish.

The granular clay they use comes from the area around Medicine Hat, Alberta.

Combustible material in the clay gives the ceramic its iridescent glow during the cooling process, Kruse says.

While most pots take eight hours to fire in the kiln and another eight hours to cool, Raku ceramics only need half an hour under low heat from a propane flame.

The pieces are removed from the kiln with tongs while still red hot.

The pottery is porous and fragile, so its function is purely ornamental, Gustafson explained.

Kruse and Gustafson sometimes collaborate on Raku pieces. Kruse throws the pot and Gustafson adds decoration.

Gustafson teaches six-week group classes and weekend workshops at the Yellowknife Guild of Arts and Crafts. She also provides individual instruction from her home. Kruse offers private lessons for one or two students in her studio.