Nancy Pene

Artist
Monday, August 1st, 2011
Nancy Pene

Nancy Pene

Nancy Pene

Nancy Pene

From over 30 years of experience of using clay to create, Nancy Pene has come to love the raku method - a Japanese firing technique dating from the 16th Century.
Using slabs of clay, all her work is either hand thrown on the potter’s wheel or constructed by hand.
The raku method begins by allowing the pieces to dry completely before they are loaded into the kiln for a first fire. This first firing ensures that all moisture is removed from the clay in preparation for the glazing.
The decorated pieces are fired again to 1800 F within an hour, and when the desired melting of the glazes has been achieved, they are immediately removed from the kiln at a red glow with special raku tongs. At this critical point, (this is the exciting part), they are quickly transferred into a metal container, filled with organic materials such as leaves, pine needles, sawdust and paper and then quickly covered to smoke and cool down.
The natural un-glazed clay is blackened by the smoking environment. The glazed areas, when quick-cooled have the desirable crackle effect and/or look of lusters to the glaze.
Nancy works with Laguna’s white stoneware and ‘raku clay’ bodies to produce her pottery work but hopes to purchase a new high-fire kiln so that she will be able to work with other types of stoneware.
For now, she is totally involved with the raku firing process, it is quick (less propane used) and the spectrum of color obtainable is, in her opinion, unmatched by finishes from other firing processes.
For the technically minded, the firing temperatures for raku are between 1600 F and 1800 F, and are mostly fired without a pyrometer, or ceramic cones. The raku artist relies more on his/her own acquired experience to determine, visually, when those desired temperatures are achieved in the kiln.
For Nancy, it is the most exciting, rapid and dramatic way to fire for spectacular results. She has an idea to install a live web cam link on her website to show the world her personal explorations in the raku firing process. When the web cam is on, one will be able to check in and watch the piece from the glaze process to the actual firing.
She applies her glazes free-hand, using a sable ‘liner’ brush, a very steady hand and the right consistency for the glaze. It takes time and patience but she was thrilled when got it just right. When she managed to get that perfect, fine line in the design, by working in the old traditionally ways, gave more rein to her skills as a artist  and avoid taping off designs, using stencils, waxing the patterns and scraping off the sprayed on glazes.
Due to a fast firing process, raku is very porous and is not appropriate for storing water or food. It is for decorative use, should be handled with care and cleaned using a damp cloth.