There is something mesmerising, maddening and enlightening about raku firing. I love its elemental connectedness, its exciting immediacy, its predictable unpredictability that taps into something ancient. I love the scars the pots bear – testament to their experiences and survival.

Craig Hoy, In Good Hands, 2017, raku-fired, pierced, paper stencilled, glaze, h. 14.5cm and 21cm; photo: Tony Webdale

The physical nature of the groggy clay body (an ironically controlled portion of the very planet we live on) brings back memories of lessons learnt about respect from a dear old friend, Thancoupie, who said to me, “Bala Boy, who am I to tell the Earth what to do?”

I love the extreme heat of the kiln, rapidly pushing the clay to its limits, reconnecting it to the molten soul of the Earth from which it came. Then comes the jolting temperature change as the glowing forms are exposed to the air we breathe – it’s an audible shock; the crazing and tinkling of glazes and the cracking of the forms themselves can be clearly heard.

There is respite in the combustion bin, albeit ever so brief. The very things that gave them comfort are soon set ablaze by the pots themselves, and they’re surrounded by flames again. The cocoon is sealed, and the volatile saps in the Mango and Flame Tree leaves add to the thick choking yellow smoke as the bins buckle and bend inward from the reduction pressure – what (or who) could survive such chaos?

From the ash and smoulder the pieces emerge scarred, blemished, dirtied and transformed.

Craig Hoy, Muscle Girl (Grace), 2017, raku-fired, pierced, paper stencilled, glaze; photo: Tony Webdale

Water is the great healer. It soothes the aching forms, calming them. They are cradled with apologetic delicacy, their drenched surfaces scrubbed raw, cracks entrenched, cleansed. What an ordeal. Yet the pots emerge as though being born, even resurrected. Brand new and yet ancient.

They bare their scars for all to see. For some the damage can be incidental and for others catastrophic, fatal. For most however, their survival is testament to their endurance.
In all this smoke and flame I can’t help but see the humanistic metaphors.

I’m interested in human experiences. What we can endure amazes me and continually inspires my work. I’m especially drawn to hardships and stories of endurance, suffering and loss. I find it intriguing how we carry these experiences.

Craig Hoy, Stu, 2017, raku-fired, pierced, paper stencilled, glaze; photo: Tony Webdale

Take, for example, the Afghanistan veteran I know. He is full of smiles and he lives life, hits the