The production of ceramics in Isernia underwent renewed development thanks to a particular technique that makes it unique in the whole peninsula: Raku.
It is an extremely original procedure that has revolutionised the classic method for creating ceramics. However, this technique has only been introduced to the Western world recently, and its fundamental principals have been altered by it.
During the ceramic-making process of in Isernia, the object is subjected to a strong thermal shock, and it is therefore necessary to use fire-resistant clay.
This type of material has grains of “chamotte” in it that make the product highly resistant to thermal shock. After being moulded and dried, the objects made from fire-resistant clay are fired in special kilns at a temperature of 1050 °C and subsequently decorated with oxides and ceramic glazes.
Once the object is glazed the second firing takes place in a suitable kiln, where the temperature reaches around 920 - 1000°C., causing the item to acquire a glossy, iridescent surface.
The object is then removed from the kiln using particular tongs and submerged in a metal container full of organic material (sheets of newspaper, wood shavings or sawdust), which provides a reducing atmosphere, i.e. an atmosphere in which the item is able to cool without oxygen.
This is also the most striking and significant stage from a technical and artistic point of view. If the ceramicist is experienced and has adequate knowledge, in this moment the reaction of the glazes used can be directed to obtain metallic lustres and iridescence of extraordinary intensity that cannot be achieved with any other method of firing.
Ceramics in Isernia cannot be described as having a history as such, as it is still a very recent activity. However, the method of production refers to a tradition with historical and very distant roots: Raku.
Raku originated in Japan in the sixteenth century. This technique, which can be used to produce ceramic tableware, was initially used for tea ceremonies, and dates back to the age-old culture of the Far East, when it was influenced and permeated by Buddhism and Zen philosophy.
Some masters of the tea ceremony gave meaning to the simple act of drinking or offering tea, which went on to extend to vast fields, ranging from architecture to the art of creating a garden, crafts, painting and calligraphy, in an attempt to enhance the value of life and its religious and philosophical aspects, beyond the everyday.
In the eighteenth century, a manual was published that explained the technique of Raku in detail, and since then this product has also spread outside of Japan. It has only been in the past fifty years, however, that this prestigious art has been imported to the Western world and the Australian continent, first becoming popular in the United States and Great Britain.
Curator — Camera di Commercio di Isernia