Local high school students learn Japanese art of Raku

 
Updated 11/9/2010 12:53 PM
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  • The class includes, front row, Abbey Abraham, Allison Toussaint, Shane Rooney, Samantha Sammons, Liz Freda, back row, Nick Antoniou, Kathleen Naughton, Haley Cooper, David Lewis and St. Viator ceramics teacher Bill Faltinoski. All are seniors, except Rooney, a junior.

    The class includes, front row, Abbey Abraham, Allison Toussaint, Shane Rooney, Samantha Sammons, Liz Freda, back row, Nick Antoniou, Kathleen Naughton, Haley Cooper, David Lewis and St. Viator ceramics teacher Bill Faltinoski. All are seniors, except Rooney, a junior. Courtesy Bill Faltinoski

  • These are some of the finished pieces.

    These are some of the finished pieces. Courtesy Bill Faltinoski

  • Carl Mankert and senior Nick Antoniou of Barrington remove red hot clay projects from kiln.

    Carl Mankert and senior Nick Antoniou of Barrington remove red hot clay projects from kiln.

  • Seniors Allison Toussaint of Mount Prospect and Abbey Abraham of Elk Grove Village prepare to extinguish fire in garbage can (that includes their clay project) so piece oxidizes.

    Seniors Allison Toussaint of Mount Prospect and Abbey Abraham of Elk Grove Village prepare to extinguish fire in garbage can (that includes their clay project) so piece oxidizes.

Nearly every week this fall, Rolling Meadows-based artist Carl Mankert has held workshops for high school and college students to learn different pottery techniques.

As the owner of the Chicago Kiln Service, he not only maintains firing equipment for area art departments, he shares his own kilns and his ability to re-create unusual art styles, like the ancient Japanese art of Raku.

His latest workshop took place at St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights. Before that, he was at Naperville North. Next week, he will mix with students at Fremd High School in Palatine as one of the working artists participating in Arts Fest.

"It's all about education," Mankert said at the Raku workshop at St. Viator, "and providing opportunities for students."

Mankert dates his love of art and of ceramics in particular to his days at Palatine High School, where he studied under Curt Pinley, now art division chairman at Fremd, who invites his former student back to Arts Fest every year.

"It's a chance for students to meet working artists, and be exposed to more than the traditional drawing and painting," Pinley says. "It goes hand-in-hand with our goal of making students curricularly well-rounded."

For the advanced ceramics students at St. Viator, their work outside the building, using smoke and fire, created quite a buzz of excitement throughout the school.

"Who else wants to do this again?" senior Nick Antoniou of Barrington asked his classmates. "This has been so much fun."

The students moved from their traditional art studio to a patio outside the cafeteria because the ancient firing process uses extreme heat and thermal conditions to create Raku's unique patterns and designs.

For the workshop, Mankert brings in his Raku kiln which reaches nearly 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit as well as a series of small trash cans where the hot, glowing pieces are moved after the firing process in the kiln.

The trash cans are filled with combustible materials, which catch on fire from the heat emitted from the pottery. When the trash can is sealed, it draws all of the oxygen out of the pottery and its glaze, creating a series of patterns and colors that are unpredictable, but ultimately create the distinctive Raku look.

"It's nice to see how it gets to the finished product," said senior Abbey Abraham of Elk Grove Village, whose three-sided vase was bisque fired before undergoing the Raku firing process.

Her classmate, senior Samantha Sammons of Prospect Heights, concurred.

"We've never been part of the firing process before," she said. "We usually glaze our pieces and leave it in school to be fired in the kiln overnight."

Bill Faltinoski, fine arts division head at St. Viator and Ceramics II teacher, said by offering an advanced ceramics class he hoped to give students more opportunities, using different media and methods.

"This is something they typically would only get to experience in college," Faltinoski said. "It's such a visual experience, with the fire and heat. The kids loved it."

Look for Mankert to be at Fremd on Wednesday, Nov. 17, throwing his clay on potting wheels in the hallway outside the theater. In all, more than two dozen artists will be setting up shop next week, as well as more musicians and other performers in the theater.