News 8 Eye Piece: Fire in the Valley

Jeff Guin shows the beauty of firing pottery in a Raku kiln

People have been making pottery for centuries and whether you’re making dishware or a of piece art there is a certain technique that’s needed.

News 8 photographer John Schmidt takes us to Coon Valley where News 8’s own Master Control Operator Jeff Guin shows us the art of firing pottery in a Raku kiln.

Jeff said: “Today, I’m doing a Raku firing technique that was developed in the sixteenth century in Japan. Part of the Zen philosophy is nothing is perfect and you find beauty in just the natural state of things.

But it differs from the way the Japanese still do it today, because of the extra combustible reduction chamber.

It’s just a regular galvanized garbage can that I bought and I lined it with a ceramic fiber blanket so that I can pump a lot of heat in there, but it pushes it back. It’s almost like the tiles on the space shuttle.

And this is different from typical pottery, because in typical pottery you would let it cool down until you can open it, the kiln, and take your pots out. This type of firing process, we will pull the pots out when they’re 1800 degrees. They’re glowing hot, I don’t use any measuring devices for temperature, I judge by the glaze. I look in the kiln and when that glaze looks like melted glass, that’s when you know that it’s time to pull. But the firing results no pieces are alike. I can create pieces in an electric kiln, a gas kiln that are pretty identical. But in this process, the Raku firing, no two pieces are ever the same. And that’s what I like about it, I don’t like the perfectness.

You can glaze three pots, put them in there, and all three might be different colors.

There’s something about the whole process it’s, it’s pretty special.”

Jeff’s been doing this for years making plates, cups, ash trays, vases, and bowls. You can find all of his work at