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The Show that Almost Wasn't
Raku Platters

San Miguel Sunday

Edna Dickinson of Zoho Gallery planned to exhibit a series of Raku platters in the gallery in May. But when San Miguel started to close down due to the Corona Virus, her first thought on the matter was: "Who is going to be interested in art now?"

On further consideration, however, considering people isolated in their homes, she realized that art could be a welcome distraction, and might even make some people feel less alone. So she went went back into her studio and finished making this grouping of platters. Zoho proudly presents them to the public online.

For these platters, Dickinson used simple, bold, abstracted calligraphic markings, glazed in neutral colors with a touch of gold luster, red or blue. The elemental connectedness and exciting immediacy of the Japanese process of Raku finished the design.

This group of platters was made by the ancient Japanese firing method called Raku. The idea of calligraphic design, only taking some element of calligraphy and using it loosely, or abstracting it, seemed to fit with the firing method. I also began looking at the stamps that Japanese ceramic artists use to sign their work. As a nod to that, to make my own "stamp," I added a small piece of red, gold luster or blue glaze. All of this contributed to a strong Asian influence with a more contemporary look.

Raku is an ancient Japanese process where pieces of ceramic are heated in a kiln and pulled out when they are red-hot. They are then plunged into a container of combustible materials; Edna uses newspaper and sawdust. These materials burst into flame. They are then covered to deprive them of oxygen. The result is that in the places where glaze has been applied, you get a wonderful variety of colors. In places with no glaze you get a matte black coloring.

Dickinson says that what attracts her to Raku firing is the excitement, unpredictability and mystery of finished pieces. "The results can be quite different and unexpected from what was imagined. The pieces endure a journey that rapidly plunges them from the extreme heat of the kiln through fire. They emerge scarred from their ordeal. For some pieces the damage makes the design. For others it can be fatal, which makes the ones that emerge whole even more special."

"The platters are handmade from start to finish. We make our own clay and glazes in the studio and I amend the clay with sand and paper so the piece can withstand the shock of rapid Raku firing. These pieces have white porcelain slip underneath the glaze to give them a lighter look. A few have cobalt blue or yellow color added to the slip to give them blue or golden color. They are then bisque fired, glazed, and Raku fired one piece at a time. The dramatic black matte color is where there is no glaze. There the smoke penetrates the clay. Dark cracks in the glaze are caused by the shock of the drop in temperature from 1836 degrees F to ambient temperature. These cracks then fill with smoke and turn dark."

Please enjoy seeing all of the pieces in this show on the Zoho Gallery website:


Since the gallery at the Fabrica Aurora no longer has regularly scheduled hours, if you are interested in learning more about any of these platters, please contact Myrna or Tonina at


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