There are many different forms of pottery. One artisan is turning up the heat for her Made in Vermont products.
The red hot glow of fire gets Irene Lederer LaCroix's creative wheels spinning. Her Essex backyard smells like one big camp fire -- and for good reason. She creates Raku at Rend'l Pottery. It's a type of Japanese pottery that is low fired outside, in a kiln made out of a barrel. Raku has a distinct look, the clay always turns black and designs pop due to the firing process.
"Don't put soup in this -- it's not functional. I mean you could put fruit in it," she says, referring to one of her creations.
Lederer LaCroix has always been a fan of painting and pottery -- Raku combines both of those. The decorative art starts with hand thrown pieces from Lederer LaCroix's wheel. She paints the high end pieces with a slip coating of watered down clay, then decorates with designs and enhances them with color and metallic oxides, like copper. Then they are carefully loaded in the outdoor kiln.
"It takes about an hour to get to a temperature where the glaze will melt. They come out of the kiln glowing hot and immerse them in combustible materials," she said.
That's the fun part. Once the kiln gets to 1,850 degrees, Lederer LaCroix has to carefully remove each piece and place it into cans with combustible materials, like newspaper and saw dust, inside. Flames burst around the hot pottery the minute they're placed in the cans. Lederer LaCroix makes sure the flames are evenly dispersed around the pieces -- if it's windy it can ruin a design. Once they turn black it's time to close the lid and let them flourish.
"That's exactly the beauty of Raku is you have no control over them," she said.
The flames and smoke react with the chemical finishes she puts on them to create beautiful designs. Because the clay body is so hot, it traps carbon and turns black in certain areas. "That's what creates the really unique effects to Raku," she said. "You can have a certain amount of control with my designs. I'm controlled, but then I have to let go and let the process take over. Serendipity is a good thing."
An artist fired up about an ancient art form that's now Made in Vermont.