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Squamish public pottery firing on Sunday, June 5

Sea to Sky Potters hope to have their own facility in Whistler.
A piece of Raku pottery after firing going into sawdust.

Local potters are set to sizzle again. 

The Sea to Sky Potters' Guild hosts its next public event on June 5, starting around noon. 

The guild's Kay Austen told The Squamish Chief there would be two firings at this event: an obvara firing (sometimes called Baltic Raku) and a glazed Raku firing. 

In March, the guild held an obvara firing in Brackendale. 

During a traditional U.S. Raku, glazed work is fired to 1,010 C, about 100 degrees hotter than the obvara firing. 

The extreme heat makes the glazes melt. Then, the pieces are taken from the kiln with tongs and plunged into bins lined with paper and sawdust or other dry combustible material.

"It is a fair bit of heat. It takes a little while to get that much further up in scale of temperature, but it enables us to melt the glazes," Austen said.

“We then remove the work with tongs, like we did with the obvara firing, and instead of plunging it into the batter or the fermented liquid, we plunge it into a garbage can or some such receptacle that is filled with sawdust and or newspaper — anything combustible — and that sets flame immediately because its touching something that's incredibly hot." 

The whole process is exciting to watch, Austen promised.

"What the burning newspaper does is it reduces the amount of oxygen in the kiln, so you get tons of smoke and soot and all this kind of thing."

The glazes are specially formulated and create beautiful patterns on the pottery.

"[The glazes] have got metallic salts in them, like oxides and carbonates and what have you, and these, due to the reduction of oxygen in the atmosphere, are brought to the surface of the glaze, which brings about all these gorgeous iridescent surfaces — metallic surfaces," Austen said.

“You get bronzes and coppers, like oil on a puddle where it has all these gorgeous rainbow iridescence. That's the kind of thing you get with raku."

The June 5 Raku firing will occur at 40415 Perth Dr. starting at about 12 p.m.

A place of their own?

The guild is in talks for a place of their own in Whistler that will be dedicated to clay work, Austen said. 

"We are cautiously optimistic," she said. "Obviously, you can't just walk into a building and make pottery. So there may be some changes they may have to be parking put in and infrastructure changes. But yeah, right now, we're very excited." 

Austen noted that the guild has members from Pemberton through to UBC. 

"We've got a huge swath of people from complete beginners, right the way through to people like me who've been in the business for decades. That's what we have needed for some time is a place where we can hold lessons and workshops. Where we can talk about where we're going to put on shows and displays... All of the offshoots that go with making pots and getting satisfaction out of it in every way."

The guild is collecting signatures of those interested in being a part of a new facility.

For more information on the effort or about upcoming events, go to the Squamish Potters or Sea to Sky Potters Guild Facebook pages.