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Raku Party - How Can We 'do It Up Right'?

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#1 ChenowethArts

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 07:34 AM

We have been considering a monthly Raku Party (Raku & Fondue as a working title) for the fair weather months of early summer and early fall.  Conceptually, it would probably be a late afternoon/dusk, invitation only event that would include a maximum of 5 couples...and might look something like this:

  • Greeting on the covered front porch with an apron, a glass of wine (probably a chilled porcelain goblet), and your host/hostess.
  • A short walk to the studio and outdoor kiln where each couple would be given basic instruction on how to apply raku glaze and handed a 6"x6" tile that is prepared/bisque-fired in advance of the party with the couple's first names stamped into the surface. There could be some other pieces available, but the idea is that everyone could get something glazed in less than 30 minutes.
  • The freshly glazed tiles (and a few other pieces) would be loaded into the raku kiln as finished.
  • Couples could do hand washing in the studio and then taken to the pond-side deck for a light sit-down dinner at bistro tables...appropriately decorated with flowers in raku pots. 
  • The family potter (the younger, MFA dude) would extend the time sitting around the tables with a demonstration of some sort plus an explaination of what the couples are about to witness when the raku kiln is opened and the post-reduction stuff begins.
  • At temperature (roughly 45 minutes), couples would be seated at a safe distance from the kiln (with a goblet refill), the kiln opened and the host ceramic people (not the couples) would smoke up the place with the post-reduction process (meaning that people would be able to move around).
  • Depending upon available time, pieces could be removed (again by staff), rinsed/cooled/cleaned, the results shared amond the couples,  and then sent home with the couple (in return for the apron they used for the event).

OK...this is still at the brainstorming level, so what would you do to make the event more fun and/or a better experience for the couples? Should there be any sort of informal display of items to purchase in the studio? If we test this (for free) with close friends and it is successful, what would be a fair fee to charge a couple for the full date-night event? Safety is a major concern and we would take extra steps to keep visitors safe...are we missing something else that might bite (or burn) us?

 

Thanks,

-Paul


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#2 Stellaria

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 07:55 AM

I would have three things for each couple to glaze, so if one or two didn't turn out, they'd still have something to take home.

And if you have an age cutoff (to avoid having children underfoot) definitely state such. These days, "couples" events don't get confined to romantic partners. You can end up with a pair of friends or a parent and child just as easily.

#3 Benzine

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 08:44 AM

Why not have the couples help with the firing? I've had multiple groups of high school students, carry out the process, with little more than an explanation of what to do, and constant warnings/ reminders about safety.

I realize there might be some legal issues, but you could have those interested in helping, sign a form stating they realize the risks....*In comes John stating such a contract isn't bulletproof*
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#4 DirtRoads

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 09:59 AM

"a glass of wine" - Depending on if you charge for this ....  Could be nailed for serving alcohol without a liquor license.   Not to mention liquor liability when people "drive" away.

 

"light sit-down dinner" - Serving food requires a full scale inspection by the Health Department. 

 

I do know your area because I had a retail store in Cool Springs Galleria Mall.   And I distinctly remember code and building regulations for the area being very demanding, especially the fire department.

 

There might be a way around some of those regulations if you are adding the wine and food as complimentary and only charging for the pottery lesson/materials.  But knowing that area, I personally would not do this.  Your area is too upscale and regulated to do something like this and count on it going "unnoticed".   Even though that market has the socio/economic clientele to support such a venture.

 

As for prices, minimum $50 per couple to $100 per couple.    At the $100 rate, you are looking at total revenue at $500 per event x 5 months = $2500.

 

IMO the risks far outweigh the reward.

 

Does sound like a really lovely evening for friends or family :)



#5 Bob Coyle

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 10:19 AM

I used to host pit fire/raku get togethers when I lived in Santa Cruz CA. Most of the people had some experience in this so they were not likely to fall into the pit or try to remove their piece from the kiln with their bare hands.  My wife and I served home made chili and soft drinks. No beer or wine. Never had a problem, but I was not charging money and I knew most of the people that came. One woman had small kids but she was savy enough to keep them well away from the fire.

 

You better check what  your liability insurance covers... there are some real idiots out there but it sounds fun... hope you can pull it off.



#6 Stephen

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 10:55 AM

I immediately was drawn in as a social event but agree the hassle of doing such an event for money seems to be a low return for the trouble and regulation hassles.  

 

I would think that you might consider keeping the plan as stated for some wonderful events with friends/family and reorganize for more regular and profitable Raku firings for profit. That event might be year round (getting around the weather obstacles can be some of the fun ;-) and happen on the first and third Saturday each month for instance and not involve booze or diner and have refreshments instead. The folks that sign up might pay $50-$75 a head and can either bring a piece to raku or chose some you have. I would think an age limit would be smart because many parents would not understand Raku and thus might not be able to make their own determination as to whether their child is old enough. 

 

Beyond the dollars after expenses you might cash flow twice a month you will put your customer email list into overdrive and make that annual sale a bigger event. 

 

Do you run a full time pottery? Is this your home or a commercial location?  



#7 Mark C.

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 03:49 PM

I will need some more info

Is this at a clay center or your house?

Whats the main motivation here??

Will some  liability insurance that you have cove this?

Whats the motivation? $$ making or other?

Not having them do the fire seems odd?

Is this really worth doing? for the return?

Seems many have my same questions

Mark


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#8 Chris Campbell

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Posted 21 May 2014 - 03:59 PM

Sorry to be a downer but NO is my first reaction .... after you talk to your insurance agent you might pass on it too.
People are too hmmmm .... Let me think of a nice word ...... Nope, no nice word for it so I won't say it .... but give them a couple glasses wine and the word will come to you!

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#9 Mark C.

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 12:57 AM

I can write the invites and wierd cards

 

Have tongs and will travel

 

Is that smoke in your can or are you just happy to see me?

 

or the ever popular why can't we just do it in a webber?

 

Mark


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#10 Mudslinger Ceramics

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 04:15 AM

Don't live in US so don't know the fine print of your insurance or food policies but in Aus we have insurance through our national ceramics association that covers your kind of raku event... but not the food and alcohol parts....these do require specific health department and council regulation compliance.   Sounds like such a fabulous way to spend an evening would not give up.

 

Can you form a collaboration with a catering company or local restaurant, for their part of the fee, who would already have their own insurance cover and compliances?  ....so you don't do the food part at all.  

Could it be a 'bring- a- plate' option to share food as part of the community bonding experience? Otherwise would keep it just fresh fruit, crackers, cheese etc like gallery openings.  

Agree with Chris though, don't do alcohol at all, not just legal concerns but some people DON"T do alcohol well no matter what they tell you beforehand.....catering company could provide alcohol-free 'mocktails' instead.

 

Hope you find a way.

 

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#11 ChenowethArts

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 07:57 AM

Great feedback from all...well, except for Mark C. and I'll be looking for him in group therapy (just kidding, Mark...I love your invitation's humor).

 

Stellaria Extra pots/forms is an option, but only after a test run, methinks.  The people we would invite are what I'd term old-friend-customers with grown children...but this would not be what I'd call a kid-friendly event. Thanks!

 

Benzine and Bob Coyle  I think some of our friends might like the idea of being part of the post-reduction process...I'll still lean toward caution and would allow this on an exception basis.  Good to hear that the experiences were successful with similar events!

 

DirtRoads, Chris Campbell, and Mudslinger Ceramics  Super good points on insurance, health codes, fire codes, etc... We have talked this over with a nearby neighbor who is a Metro Codes Inspector and he provided great advice on when and where we would be crossing a line into trouble...oddly enough, parking was an issue that seemed to concern him more.  Events at home would not include anything that includes a financial transaction...for the most part, our invitees are people we have known for years, who have purchased work at a gallery or sale, but who have never seen the studio (it is still fairly new).  Consider it a thank-you/marketing event in that regard.  On the other hand, we have been asked to piggy-back at a local gallery and craft-paint/glaze-it studio that already does catered events & date night ceramic events (think, pottery wheel scene atmosphere with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore from the movie Ghost)...but they have never done a late evening raku event.  In that regard, I'll stick with the clay portion of the event and the host company will deal with the legal/codes/health stuff.  We'd probably charge an honorarium and include a sale's table with our usual gallery split on procedes. Bottom-line: if it turns out to be fun, we'll do it.  If it is just a pain in any posterior body part...we'll stick with the home-studio plan.

 

Again, thanks all.  Your feedback is much appreciated!


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#12 JBaymore

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 10:09 AM

...oddly enough, parking was an issue that seemed to concern him more. 

 

I'm guessing that is because he has never seen actual raku firing in process.

 

best,

 

........................john


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#13 bciskepottery

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 11:37 AM

...oddly enough, parking was an issue that seemed to concern him more.

 
I'm guessing that is because he has never seen actual raku firing in process.
 
best,
 
........................john


More likely pottery studio in residential neighborhood with limited/street parking.

#14 Idaho Potter

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Posted 22 May 2014 - 08:40 PM

It's one thing if you are just going to demonstrate the raku process, and totally different take if your want your friends to experience raku.  As to what type of work to fire, I'd suggest throwing small tea bowls/cups off the hump and having them bisqued, ready to go.  I would also limit glaze choices and discuss the unglazed portion of the pots/tiles because negative space has a lot to do with the finished product.  As people arrive, I'd have the kiln working on its first load so that all the preheating is almost done, and the following firings could well be down to approximately 15 to 20 minutes.

 

I'd not bring forth the drinks (except for water) until after the firings are completed.  Then they are celebratory.

 

I've had groups of kids (5th grade) and/or adults help during a raku firing, but not until they've done a dry run.  When you have a group of people, you really need choreography so the procedure becomes more of a ritual dance.  You don't want people stepping on the gas hose; bumping  into the table (or kiln) with pots; running into others while they are handling hot pots; etc, etc.

 

Putting all the difficulties aside, I, personally, think that raku is a participant, not a spectator sport.  To break the ice, have two good friends come over a day or so before the party and walk them through the procedures--without heat.  Then fire up the kiln and have them actually handle removing a pot from the kiln (with tongs!) and placing them in the smoke pots.  When the "party" starts, have them help again, and tell  your other guests to watch how the work flows from glazing table, to preheat, to kiln, to smoke pot--and see who else wants to help.  I  never have more than two new novices learning and keep the helpers to only essential participants--in other words, rotate your crew. Anyone who is timid about being around fire or heat, should become the rooting section.

 

If you quench with water have them plunge in a water filled 5 gallon bucket (been using the same one for over 25 years).  Part of the process is cleaning the pots afterwards, and they can do it at your house or at theirs.  Have green scrubby material either by it self or as one part of a sponge.  When your friends discover the glint of copper, gold, or silver hiding under the soot, their grins will light the neighborhood.

 

Hope you all have fun, 'cause that's what a raku party is.

 

Shirley



#15 ChenowethArts

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Posted 23 May 2014 - 08:08 AM

Just to follow-up:

JBaymore and bciskepottery  The parking questions were more about keeping visitors in the driveway/turnaround rather than on the street.  There is street parking...but when people are parking on both sides of the street, things can get a little tight.

 

Idaho Potter Shirley, thanks for the suggestions. I keep hearing the "raku is a participant, not a spectator sport' theme.  If indeed, we could have people over in advance to walk through the process, I think my comfort level would go up...but for now, I'd rather get some experience on a very small scale before jumping in with a full-scaled raku-two-step-tango-and-cha-cha-cha :)

 

You all are terrific and I appreciate all of the comments.

-Paul


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#16 neilestrick

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Posted 23 May 2014 - 08:40 AM

If I have an event in my shop where I will be serving alcoholic beverages, like a gallery opening, am not allowed to advertise that there will be alcohol available. If I was charging admission to the event, the rules would change, and I would not be allowed to serve alcohol at all since I do not have a liquor license. So you'll have to check with your local authorities on how all that works. It may be different if it's BYOB.

 

The biggest concern for me when doing raku workshops is safety. I think the vast majority of raku workshops are done in an unsafe manner. Don't even get me started on the dangerous raku kiln designs. For all attendees, I have the following rules:

 

1. Long pants

2. Closed toe shoes

3. No synthetic fiber clothing

4. Safety glasses and gloves when near the cans.

 

For those who want to pull pots from the kiln, they have to wear the full gear- hat, face shield, long gloves, fire coat.

 

For me, Raku workshops are not a good money maker. Too many hours to make it worthwhile, plus gas and materials costs are high. I do it as a fun event to get people together who aren't normally in the same classes, and to bring some new students in.


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#17 ChenowethArts

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Posted 24 May 2014 - 07:10 AM

 

For me, Raku workshops are not a good money maker. Too many hours to make it worthwhile, plus gas and materials costs are high. I do it as a fun event to get people together who aren't normally in the same classes, and to bring some new students in.

 

We are on the same page here, neilestrick . I have seen a student, even a careful student, accidentally drop a pot moving from the kiln to the can and get a nasty burn from flying, hot shards.  I certainly don't want that to be part of this experience. I would hope that everyone would heed your safety advice...it works for me!

I may not have mentioned it before, but this is more of an event to let friends/clients peek behind the curtain to see how raku is done...so many have no idea at all.  It is not intended to be a 'sales event' although I would definitely follow-up to let this same group of people know when they might see more raku pieces on display at a local gallery.  I would hope their experience would increase their appreciation of the process and perhaps ease the sticker shock when they do make a buying decision ^_^


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#18 JBaymore

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Posted 31 May 2014 - 06:23 PM

One of the issues in getting folks to take the health and safety arena seriously is that people will not typically share their medical history and issues publically.  So you don't hear about what does happen out there.  I'll share one here:

 

Probably about 35 years ago now, I caught the wrong end of a student's raku mistake in a class I was teaching.

 

In a heartbeat things went from 'all is well' to it resulting in 2nd and 3rd degree burns (yeah....charcoal :o ) on the entire palm and finger surface of my right hand. And me literally falling onto my knees in shock. And then rushing for the cold water nearby. And students heading for the telephone. And a fast trip to the EW.

 

Thank god that at the time MassArt (where I was teaching) was literally right next door to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston.

 

Months of first daily and then every other day and then multiple times a week trips to the burn unit for a LONG time... and some really painful treatment...... and tthe skills of the burn unit doctors and nurses ........... and I still have fingerprints and feeling and full manuverability of that hand. And amazingly.... no scarring. But I still can't hold a hot cup of tea or coffee (wrapping the fingers around the cup) in that hand like I can in my left.

 

It happens when you least expect it.

 

best,

 

..............john


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