The Norman Transcript

October 11, 2013

Fuego Friday event brings fire to fall

by Emily Summars
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma’s School of Art and Art History is heating up the night with its 8th Annual Fuego Friday 7-10 p.m. Oct. 25 at the OU School of Art and Art History’s Ceramics Facilities, 401 E. Congress St.

Fuego, which means fire in Spanish, drives the event’s focus: heat. This year’s free event will mesmerize visitors’ sense of discovery watching how fire transforms glazed clay. In the past, Fuego Friday included an iron pour.

“This year, Fuego Friday offers OU students, faculty, staff and the Norman community a glimpse into our ceramics program,” said Jessica Upson with OU’s School of Art and Art History. “This is a wonderful opportunity to see what our students are up to.”

Upson said this year’s event invites visitors to watch ceramic demonstrations and kiln firing, which will include raku firing, a 2350 degree salt kiln firing, and a traditional pit fire.

Most firings take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours before pottery items are finished being fired and the cooling cycle may last another 12 to 24 hours. Finally, when finished the ceramic items are removed from the kiln and considered a finished product.

Raku firing was developed in Japan in the 16th century and the word “raku” means “joy” or “happiness.” For raku, the firing process may take as short as 15 to 20 minutes or up to several hours, depending on the piece. As a result, pre-made ceramic pots will be available for purchase, while supplies last, at Fuego Friday. Ceramic pots will range in cost from $15 to $30 a piece. Upson said those that wish to purchase pots should contact OU Professor Stuart Asprey at stuart@ou.edu before Oct. 25. Those that purchase pots will be able to take them home the night of the event.

“Visitors are encouraged to take a hands-on approach by glazing pre-made ceramic pots which will be fired and available to take home that evening,” Upson said.

Proceeds from pottery sales at the event will benefit the Red Clay Faction, a student organization that also helped organize and participate in the event. The proceeds will be used by the student organization to assist students’ travel to the National Council for the Education for Ceramic Arts annual conference in Milwaukee, Wis., this spring.

Raku firing is different from other firing methods because ceramic items are removed from the kiln at its maximum temperature during the raku process. Glaze maturity is judged by the eye and without the use of measuring devices, as in other processes.

Once pieces have been removed at its maximum temperature, it induces the pieces to go into a thermal shock so an open clay body and porous materials act as a shock-absorber. Now, traditional and contemporary raku firing differ in technique and treatment once the ware is pulled from the kiln.

Most western techniques take the ware and place it in a container with a combustible material like sawdust to create a smoky atmosphere. The result is a unique crackled, sometimes metallic looking surface. Most raku fired pieces are associated with Zen Buddhism, Japanese Tea Ceremonies and cultural traditions. After the process is complete, most wares are washed to remove soot and ash.

Other kiln techniques include the salt kiln firing. Salt kiln firing is a “vapor-glazing process” where salt is introduced in the kiln firebox at a high temperature. The salt evaporates creating fun and interesting details on ceramics.

For more information on the OU School of Art and Art History visit art.ou.edu. For directions or special accommodations call 405-325-2691 or email art@ou.edu.