About My Raku Sculpture

What does equanimity look like? What does Buddha look like right now?

Anita Feng’s forty plus years of both Zen and clay work inspire a sculpting technique that explores the fleeting nature of time and space, balanced with joy and peace in all the idiosyncrasies of the moment. Furthermore, the raku firing technique brings qualities of shimmering thusness to the surfaces, giving voice to the unpredictable artistry of fire. In imperfections created by the raku firing process, I honor these effects while at the same time, enhancing the figures using various materials, such as gold dust mixed with epoxy, chicken feathers, chains and carpet tacks.

The raku firing process can be traced to 16th c. Japan, Zen Buddhism and the tea ceremony.

The raku firings take place outdoors in a special homemade kiln (made from a converted old Weber grill!), taking about an hour to get up to 1800 degrees. At that point the pottery is removed from the kiln while still glowing hot. I remove the sculptures from the kiln with iron tongs and quickly place them in metal bins filled with wood shavings, pine needles or shredded junk mail (I find that junk mail gives particularly vibrant colors). As flames erupt, a lid is secured on the bin which creates a carbonized atmosphere, permeating the clay body with gun-metal black and creating a unique shimmering effect on the glazes.

Aside from the extraordinary color effects of raku, I enjoy its unpredictability. Everything has an effect on the finished figure — such as the weather, temperature, wind, humidity, the speed at which I transfer the sculptures from the kiln to the metal bins (a difference of a few seconds alters the colors).

Finished pieces are sprayed with a special clear sealant to preserve the unique coloration. While the sculptures may be placed outside, it is recommended that you bring them indoors during freezing temperatures.

To see video clips of the post-firing drama, click on the links below:

Post firing of a large bust

Writer Bio

Major awards include a National Endowment for the Arts grant, an Illinois Arts Council grant, a Washington State GAP award and the Pablo Neruda Prize. Publications include a new novel Sid, and two books of poetry, Internal Strategies, published by the University of Akron Press and Sadie & Mendel, winner of the Backwaters Press Prize. Individual works have been published by Nimrod, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, North American Review, Northwest Review, and Primavera among others. Some of the writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Anita is a graduate of Brown University’s Creative Writing Program, where she earned an MFA in Poetry.