This is a video showing the basics of raku with great flare. Also, to see a master raku firing, see my dad's video (including a throwing demonstration) at http://odellpottery.com/videoall.htm .
According to wikipedia, the term raku is derived from the Kanji character meaning "enjoyment" or "ease". For fifteen generations, it has been the title and seal used by a dynasty of potters whose work formed the central tradition of Japanese raku. Raku has taken on new form this century as potter's begin to learn new ways to take some the the chance out of raku by including new means of control, while still retaining the quick, unpredictable spirit of this firing.
In this image, we can see down into one of Odell's raku kilns as the pots reach temperature. They are monitored by heat color, kiln time, and the movement of the crackle glaze on the top of the pots. Once this simple glaze boils and then smooths down on the surface, the temperature is hot enough. At that point, it is the firer's decision when to pull depending on how much melting and movement he wants from the glaze. The reactive copper is then exposed to combustibles and air to produce varying oxidation effect across the surface. Painting with fire and air if that's not too cheesy for you.
excellent work by Steve Hemingway.
This firing is fast, dynamic, and high risk for the pieces. The clay body must have a significant amount of grog to survive the snatching from the hot kiln. Although it seems intimidating, as long as you don't mind an occasional singed eyebrow and cracked piece, it is relatively affordable and approachable.
I am currently working on two large raku platters, so expect a video of my, I'm assuming entertaining, first attempt at this marvel.