After nearly 35 years as a potter, I am still enchanted with the process of transforming lumps of clay into works of art. Happily, my wife has become enchanted with the process too. For the last eight years we have collaborated, working exclusively with the Raku process to produce a line of work we call “American” or “Contemporary” Raku. Most of our creations are vessel forms using the potter’s wheel or handbuilding techniques. The Raku firing becomes collaboration between the artist and the process, always interesting, enjoyable, and not always predictable. Some of our handbuilt pieces are like jazz, but the main body of our work is more like classical music. Whether sculpting or throwing a piece on the wheel, we like to be creative with the surface decoration, adding stains, glazes, and textures in ways that make the work truly stand apart from other Raku. Colorful surfaces are achieved by using both airbrush and detailed hand-glazing techniques and often, one piece is glazed in different stages by both of us. We play at alchemy and our created palette includes (but is not limited to) reds, turquoises, ambers, ochres and yellows, as well as the classic white crackle. During the firing, rapid extremes of temperature and oxygen verses carbon atmospheres create a distinctive look – the unglazed clay is blackened, glazed areas develop a network of crackles, and colorants in the glazes melt and often blend in unexpected ways. The results can be spectacular…the mark of the fire is on the piece. Blackened and sooty, this pottery goes through some incredible scrubbing and emerges gleaming with an inner fire of its own. Most of our work is then embellished with strands of copper wire, a signature (but not a patent) that has been with us for about 25 years. This adds a precise line and separates and delineates areas on the surface of the pieces. We also make and add small wooden pegs to some of the pottery as a decorative effect. On a few of the pieces we add metallic leaf for a more dramatic look. It is these details that add a finished look to our work and separate it further from other Raku.
In the end, it’s the making of the piece and the spontaneity of the Raku firing that we find so appealing. Our vision and creative voice speak through the materials we have chosen to use, but the Raku process retains its editorial power over our expression. It’s collaboration on many levels and we think it’s a good working arrangement. For us, Raku is like alchemy. It’s like spinning straw into gold. The process is magic.
For more than thirty-five years Richard Gruchalla has made his living as a potter. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Moorhead State University in 1973, he spent twelve years producing utilitarian stoneware and porcelain before turning his full attention to decorative pottery. He is rooted in tradition and has great respect and admiration for traditional forms and processes.
Carrin Rosetti earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degreemagna cum laude from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in 1990, receiving an Award for Academic Excellence in the process. Carrin comes to the clay studio with a background in fibers and art history.
Richard and Carrin work in the vessel form. That is, the objects they make have the form of utensils for holding something – a vase, a basket, a pot, etc. They work in clay and put the vessels through a firing process known as Raku, a process by which certain glaze finishes, textures and looks are achieved. Raku is a very drastic and dramatic process in which the vessels are put through rapid extremes of temperature; also, the atmosphere is changed from one rich in oxygen to one dense in carbon and then back again. The process is so severe that it would cause most ceramic pieces to shatter. Even though the clay that these artists use is formulated to withstand the extremes of Raku firing, many of their creations are lost to thermal shock. The pieces that make it through the firing intact have a distinctive look: the clay is blackened, the glazes are crackled and the atmospheres affect the colorants in the glazes. The mark of the fire is on the pieces.
Work Available For Sale