Tippecanoe School Corporation
Harrison students get fired up about art
Sue Scott

Ceramics students gathered around two burning trash cans behind Harrison High School. With the help of local artists Ralph and Donna Ward, the students had the opportunity to finish their pottery pieces using Raku firing. Raku is a traditional Japanese way of firing pottery that is known for creating unique designs.

Teacher Jill Baker says the project involved about 120 art students. The ceramic pieces get pre-fired in the kiln, then are wrapped with different materials before being placed into the trash can with a variety of flammable objects such as twigs, leaves and pine cones. The students watched as Ralph started the fire and then waited hours to see how their artwork turned out.

“The students were very excited when we fished them out of the trash can and cleaned them up,” says Baker. “The students were amazed at the colors, because when we put them in the trash can they were white.”

Freshman Melia Hendon made a small pinch pot with wavy looking edges. “I painted it with a special blue/green paint and wrapped it with salt, coffee grounds, steel wool and wire,” says Melia. “In the end my pinch pot came out with a metallic blue color speckled all over and charcoal looking stains with fun designs. Overall, I loved how my project turned out and thought it was a unique, amazing way to fire and glaze our ceramic ware.”

“I made a little container with flowers on it,” says freshman Faith Pfeiffer, “What I put on my container before we fired it was salt, wool, and coffee grounds. It ended up looking very interesting and colorful.”

“This technique gives students a glimpse into how artists have created pottery throughout history,” says Ralph Ward. “Although rather primitive, pit firing or trash can firing has many possibilities. With practice and different techniques, many colors and finishes can be achieved.”

“We both are lifelong learners and enjoy sharing and teaching, so when asked to share our knowledge with Harrison students, we were thrilled to do it,” adds Ward. “Hopefully, it had an impact on the students.”

Ralph Ward lights the fire in the trash cans
Student artwork from Raku
pottery pieces taken from trash can