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LFCC offers summer Raku class

By Kim Walter -- kwalter@nvdaily.com

An all new art class will be offered this summer at Lord Fairfax Community College's Middletown campus and will count for three credit hours.

Raku, a Japanese form of pottery, will be taught by Clay Walthall, who teaches art at Stonewall Jackson High School and various courses at LFCC.

"This is a real process-rich form of pottery," Walthall said. The teacher learned raku when he was in art school, and has taught raku classes before, even to children. The class at LFCC doesn't require that students have any previous experience, though some art background would be helpful, Walthall added.

Raku is different from other pottery in that it's focused very intensely on the firing process. Based on techniques developed in 16th century Japan, the process was Americanized and became popular in the 1950s. It was originally developed in association with the Japanese tea ceremony, but modern raku pottery is much less functional and more for decoration, Walthall said.

"It's sort of a dramatic process, because there's a lot of smoke and steam involved," he said of raku. He added that the length of the classes will be a good thing, as more projects can be completed.

While most types of pottery are loaded into a cold kiln in which the firing process proceeds slowly, raku is placed in a kiln that is cooling. The raku ware will stay in the cooling cycle for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Once done, the ware is quickly loaded into a hot kiln where firing only takes 15 to 20 minutes. Once the glaze has reached its maturity, the wares are treated to a post firing reduction phase, which is a chamber or container of combustible material, which will release smoke. Walthall said this is where the "drama" of the process comes in. The atmosphere then causes unique styles that look metallic and might cause the glaze to crackle and even change color.

The classes will meet from 9 a.m. to about 2 p.m. every weekday from July 17 to the 30. The class is advertised to last until 4:45 p.m., but Walthall said that includes time spent reading, which can be done outside the classroom.

Walthall said the first week of the class would consist of making ware and understand the raku process, and then would proceed with making glazes and firing.

"This is a summer course, so it will be casual," he said. "I really just want it to be fun and have the students come out knowing more than they did when they came in."

There will be an evaluation of some kind at the end of the class, and Walthall has suggested a textbook to participants to help with technical understanding.

Walthall said he feels the class will be a "nice introductory experience" for artistic students.

"The time will pass quickly," he said. "The students will probably be able to finish more pieces since it's a less interrupted experience."

Walthall said he realizes that some students will be taking the class just for fun, and he plans to accommodate those people.

"The focus is really on learning the raku process, but also enjoying yourself." he said.

To register for Raku, go to www.lfcc.edu and click on "Check out Summer and Fall course offerings."

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