American Raku


Raku ware was started by Chôjirô, the forebear of the Raku family during the Momoyama period in the mid 16th century. Traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies, rakuware (raku-yaki) is a famous type of Japanese pottery. This art form was highly appreciated by tea masters for the purity and unpretentiousness of the objects, especially chawan tea bowls. With a history stretching back to 1580, rakuware remains today the most sought after of Japanese ceramics, and an unparalleled example of wabi-sabi aesthetics.

American Raku

American-style raku differs in a few ways, notably the rich black surface produced by smoking the ware outside the kiln at the end of firing. Other innovations include the quenching of the red-hot vessel in cold water, the production of brilliant and many-colored copper lusters and copper-matte.

Happy accident

So Soldner tried his hand at raku: making an ad-hoc kiln out of a 50-gallon oil drum lined with concrete, formulating the right clay and glazes for it and choosing a fish pond nearby for plunging the ceramics into cold water. But one bowl didn’t make it to the water. Rushing from the kiln to the pond with tongs in hand, Soldner accidentally dropped the bowl in a bed of pepper-tree leaves, where it started a small fire. The result was visually arresting, with the pot picking up the imprint of the leaves and acquiring a smoky or iridescent sheen.


The bowl where it all happens: the chawan (茶碗 - tea bowl) is one of tea’s most iconic utensils and exists in near endless variety. While they may seem like the simplest of tea making utensils, chawan hold a central place in Japanese tea culture and ceramic arts.

"Do not wear grass hula skirts to raku" or "Do not attempt to operate a raku kiln indoors or in a moving vehicle"