Gallery ‘Iolani displays the beauty of Raku

Raku projects oxidize in the fiery kiln, creating bright colors and a beautiful glow in the darkness of night – Courtesy of Momoe Nakajima

Gallery ‘Iolani’s latest exhibit, Raku Ho‘olaule‘a 2017, showcases more than 70 ceramic art pieces glazed and fired during the Hawai‘i Craftsmen’s 41st annual Raku Ho‘olaule‘a at Camp Mokulē‘ia in May. The exhibit, which features work from 37 artists, was juried by experts in traditional and contemporary Raku techniques.

Originating in Japan, traditional Raku ceramics arose during the 16th century from the Zen pursuit of finding oneness of the individual with the rest of creation and the desire to amplify this oneness through pottery. Traditional Raku artists worked mostly on tea bowls, vessels for the all-important Japanese tea ceremony. Raku later evolved because of the preferences of tea masters for natural things. Western Raku began about 50 years ago and is a continuing tradition on O‘ahu.

The annual Raku Ho‘olaule‘a community began in 1977 and brings together ceramic artists to participate in Raku workshops and a beachside campout. At the event, artists use sandy clay so that pieces can be rapidly fired to between 1600 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. Artists then remove the pieces hot from the kiln with tongs and place their creations in an airtight container with combustible items such as dried leaves, newspaper or sawdust. The combustible materials steal oxygen from the metallic oxides in the glazes, a process that creates various colors and effects.

Despite its beauty, Raku pottery is porous and isn’t meant for utilitarian use. It will leak water after a few hours.

The exhibit will run through October 7. For more information, contact Gallery ‘Iolani director assistant Momoe Nakajima at 236-9155 or visit


by Hannah Bailey, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter