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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Glaze, Bake your Own Pot at Raku Workshop

With over 200 hand-thrown clay pots, you might think that the Grinnell Area Arts Council would be stocked for months. But the pots will be gone after half a day of arts and crafts fun for the hordes of Grinnell townspeople, students and their families who are invited to Saturday’s Raku Workshop, hosted by the Arts Council.

“Last year it was rainy, and we still went through over 200 pots, even with the awful weather,” said Judy Arendt, Director of the Grinnell Area Arts Council. “This year, we’re hoping it’s going to be sunny. We have a bounce slide for the kids and we’ll have a couple food venders too.”

Additionally, the Arts Council is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization dedicated to volunteer youth mentoring.

“We received a grant from Alliant Energy to have those kids come in so the Bigs and the Littles are able to have an activity together,” Arendt said.

Raku is a method of firing pots that originated in Japan.

“There are two kilns and they burn a very hot fire,” Arendt said.

Special glazes are applied, and sometimes horsehair is used to add texture. The pots are then fired in the kilns as their makers watch, and when they’re removed, it’s a finished bowl, cup or pot. The pots are available for five dollars each, and just about every hour there’s a shift where the organizers will fire pots.

The Raku Workshop started “a long time ago,” according to Arendt. The Arts Council used to host the event near a farm north of town but after its discontinuation for a number of years, Arendt decided to start holding the Workshop in town last year.

“We have it out here in the front of the [Arts Council] building,” said Arendt. “We block off some of the parking spaces and we hire Wanda and Tom Clarke to come in from Sioux City and they bring the kilns and the glazes and the whole thing.”

A number of potters around town and at the College are involved with throwing pots for the event. Cecilia Knight, a Grinnell College Librarian, is one of those potters.

For those looking for a way to become accustomed with the art of ceramics, the Raku Workshop is a great way to begin.

“[The workshop is an] immediate and exciting introduction to pottery,” Knight said.

Knight has been working with clay for many years, but she understands that ceramics is difficult for many and requires patience. Moreover, she explained the extensive equipment needs, including work surfaces, tools, wheels and kilns that most people would not have easily access to. The Raku Workshop is a chance for the Grinnell community to experience pottery without investing the time and resources necessary to master ceramics.

“I hope that the Raku experience will attract more people to what I find to be a very rewarding and relaxing art form,” Knight said.

The Raku Workshop will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside the Grinnell Arts Gallery located at 926 Broad St. and is open to everyone.

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